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This Business is Personal

Posted by Robin Green, Ann Schleck & Company on March 02, 2016

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How The Best Relationship Managers Help Personalize the Retirement Plan Industry

I’m endlessly curious about the retirement plan industry and, fortunately, spend my time talking with the market about what works and where there is pain.  The industry leaders I meet with are passionate about their work with retirement plans because it is personal.   Each individual is personally saving for retirement.  And because we are in the industry, our actions impact our brothers, sisters, neighbors and communities. 

Recently my team conducted research with 11 leading plan providers who responded to 50 impactful questions about relationship management.  Business leaders spoke candidly about what concerns them and where they see change coming.  Relationship manager conversations uncovered what they need to best serve clients, what motivates them, and what keeps them at their firm.  From this insight — and our experience working in the industry — we’ve prepared a profile of what Relationship Managers need to be effective and make the business more personal. 

As an advisor, a plan sponsor or a plan provider, review whether or not your relationship manager has autonomy and influence, internal support, and advanced technology.  The best relationship managers have ample resources in all three categories.    


  • A well-defined client experience that ensures the best of the firm is consistently delivered to all clients – but enough flexibility to let the relationship manager bring insights in a targeted, meaningful way for each plan sponsor  
  • A concise reporting package to quickly communicate where the plan sponsor is today and what they need to do to improve their metrics
  • Influence on when and how education, marketing and operational communications are delivered to their plan sponsor and participant clients
  • Access to regulatory, fiduciary and relevant industry trend information to enhance their knowledge and added value at each client interaction
  • A deep understanding of plan profitability and pricing for each plan sponsor along with quick, clear responses from leadership on pricing and service changes
  • Testimonials, case studies and “real-life” materials to bring meaningful insights to plan sponsors


  • Responsive, back-office teams who deliver operational excellence, communicate effectively and have defined solutions to common plan sponsor challenges
  • Reasonable case-loads that let them focus on strategic business planning and relationship-building tasks
  • Tools and training on how to partner with specialist advisors – including support from a dedicated Consultant Relations team
  • Collaboration and support from marketing and communications – including a relationship management enablement team lead in marketing responsible for helping RMs be the “face of the brand”
  • Influence on major brand, marketing, research and client – facing initiatives
  • Administrative support (e.g., meeting schedules, travel, material prep)
  • News-feed control to help ensure the right information gets through to them and their clients


  • On-demand tools and dashboards to quickly identify how changes, trends and ideas personally impact the RMs book of business and each plan sponsor and their employees
  • Plan sponsor websites that present customized dashboards to show sponsors the information they want to see first
  • CRM systems that accept plan-by-plan, preferences for information delivery
  • RM access to single sign-on, mobile CRM and internal systems to help them be more responsive and productive
  • Innovative technology to share information during client meetings (e.g., iPad, webcast, video-conferencing)

Plan sponsors and advisors are focused on managing the fiduciary requirements for retirement plans and delivering the best possible retirement solutions for plan participants. Retirement plan providers are making investments to help protect plan sponsors, understand their needs and drive better retirement outcomes for plan participants. We all rely on relationship managers to personalize the experience for plan sponsors, plan participants and various other retirement plan service partners.  Relationship managers are the face of the brand, but their role is bigger than the company brand; they serve as ambassadors for the financial services industry. Their integrity and dedication sets a high bar for every other arm of financial services to follow. 

I’m consistently surprised and impressed by how passionately retirement plan industry people are – at every level of the business. But it makes sense and I’m passionate, too.  I am a participant in my companies retirement plan.  I am on the investment committee.  My colleagues and their families are impacted by our actions.  And this business is personal.

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