Originally published on BenefitsPro.com on December 12, 2019
BY: BRAD KNOWLES
Managing Director, Argent/Heritage Retirement Plan Advisors
With the new year just around the corner, many benefit plan executives will soon be updating and organizing their retirement plan files and looking for better ways to help employees save for the future. Plan sponsors at large companies also will be spending additional time reviewing governance documents, including policies and procedures manuals, investment committee meeting minutes and quarterly reports in preparation for the annual audit as required by the Department of Labor.
Ensuring plan compliance and fiduciary plan governance is no easy feat given the increasingly complex and changing rules and regulations governing retirement plans. One way sponsors can stay ahead of the game is to work with advisors whose companies have passed certification from third parties, such as the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX).
These organizations regularly update their assessment protocols and refine their certification criteria to ensure retirement plan advisors have the expertise, capabilities, policies and procedures in place to help plan sponsors meet their fiduciary obligations. Here are three reasons why working with a certified retirement plan advisor can make benefit sponsors’ lives easier:
1. Ensures sponsors are following all retirement plan documents
Managing your plan’s governance can be time consuming. The IRS and the DOL both have oversight of company retirement plans. In general, the IRS oversees the qualified status of the plans, while the DOL is responsible for fiduciary standards and reporting requirements. Here is a small sample of the list of documents that have to be in your audit file and ready for inspection:
- Corporate charter
- IRS approval letter
- Summary plan documents and any amendments
- Custodial or trust documents and any amendments
- Current fidelity bond policy
- Investment policy statements
- Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA) Notice
- Investment committee meeting minutes
Advisors who have passed certification exams have verified processes that can make your job much easier. They can also identify potential problems, material weaknesses in internal controls or conflicts of interest so the annual audit will go smoothly for plan sponsors.
2. Confirms that plan investments are diversified
One of the primary responsibilities of retirement plan fiduciaries is to provide employees an opportunity to participate in plans so they can build their wealth. Certified advisors have proven methodologies in place to help plan sponsors offer participants a range of options to growth their money in risk-appropriate investments. Just as important, certified advisors can help plan sponsors select investment managers who have a proven track record of success.
3. Ensures that plan expenses are reasonable
Lawsuits over retirement plan fees continue to be a major concern for plan sponsors. While lawsuits against large corporations tend to make the headlines, more small business owners are finding themselves the targets of litigation. Certified advisors can assist plan sponsors in selecting reasonable and cost-effective investment options – and helping them document the process to satisfy their fiduciary obligations to ensure the fees being paid are reasonable for the investment services provided.
Benefits professionals are under constant pressure to meet federal regulations. By working with a certified retirement plan advisor, sponsors can be confident their plans are in compliance and that they are helping improve the financial well-being of their employees.