Ask clients what they value most in their relationship with a trusted advisor and they are likely to talk about communication. Survey their satisfaction and you will find it is generally one of the top two things they care about. Ask why they change advisors and you are likely to hear about a lack of communication as a principle driver of their decision.
Advisors who focus on retirement plans face two communication challenges: one addresses the employer, leadership group, and investment committee; the other addresses the employees of the company who may participate in the plan.
Plan sponsor communication centers on delivering value and, more and more, that translates to something beyond delivering requisite cost efficiencies, investment management and fiduciary oversight. It requires a commitment to producing better participant outcomes and a demonstrable plan to help the employer realize this goal. A forward-leaning advisor is actively focused on plan success metrics (participation trends, goal completion progress, match optimization, etc.) and leveraging data-driven insights to help employers optimize their benefit plan offering.
Employee and participant communications present an array of challenges to the plan advisor:
- The desirable and often used auto-enrollment feature in many plans establishes a savings pattern without an enrollment meeting or introduction from the advisor.
- Many advisors have natural relationships with employers, but may have limited resources to reach employee populations beyond initial enrollment meetings.
- Advisors who have limited plan counts may not be able to justify budget and resources to dedicated communication programs that benefit from scale.
- In many cases, participant contact details may be limited or unavailable to the advisor.
We know that that, all things being equal, the sooner a person begins saving for retirement the better. Years of compounding earnings matter. Messages to eligible, but not participating employees are critical. Assuming a goal-based enrollment experience, participants may have for the first time a realistic idea of how much they need to accumulate over time to reach their retirement funding goal. Messages that encourage them to maximize the company match and increase their contributions to close the gap and catch up become essential in the effort to change behavior if long-term outcomes are going to improve.
Happier employees also tend to be healthier and retire closer to on-time. That is a win – win scenario for any company.
In “normal” times, these communication challenges are ever-present and fundamentally important to delivering on the promise of better participant outcomes.
In a period so dramatically affected by the COVID-19 health pandemic and its impact on the economy and financial markets, communication is even more critical. Whether participants are seasoned investors or first-time savers, they are likely to have questions and concerns. It is a huge opportunity for plan advisors to address natural concerns, re-frame expectations, remind investors of the long-term strategy they have, and to take advantage of dollar cost averaging as markets adjust.
Data-driven, mission-aligned messaging can easily segment and target messages based on age, progress against goals, and more. And sometimes, like now, messages need to be heard by every participant in every plan. Doing so can go a long way in expressing the quality of a relationship and can differentiate an advisory offering in an otherwise-commoditized environment.
If you would like to learn how iJoin can put these success metrics and an employee communications campaign at your fingertips, we’d love to talk. Contact us.