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October 24, 2011 — Although advisers have a higher approval rating than recordkeeper relationship managers among mid-market plan sponsors, they have been struggling to keep pace in the small-market, according to Richard Schroder, President of Anova Consulting Group.   —

Offering an expanded explanation of research released earlier this week, Schroder told PLANADVISER that in Anova’s survey of 1,080 plan sponsors (700 from small plans with less than $5 million in assets and 380 from mid-sized plans of between $5 and $25 million in assets), the small-market sponsors tend to rate their day-to-day relationship manager (RM) at a provider higher than they rate their adviser (see “Sponsors More Satisfied with Providers than Advisers”).  The “advisers” in question cover a range of business models, Schroder noted—including those associated with a wirehouse or an independent registered investment adviser (RIA).

“However, when we move up-market, advisers tend to score better than platform relationship managers,” he said. The difference is not as wide in the mid-market as in the small-market though—in the $5-$25 million plan range, advisers’ overall approval rating is about 87%, versus 86% for RMs. So it’s better, but not by much.

The sponsors were asked to rate their adviser and RM on a 7-point scale. The areas they were asked to rate included overall satisfaction, frequency of contact, problem resolution skills, responsiveness, accessibility, proactive approach, and product knowledge. Schroder said the areas in which advisers consistently outperform RMs are in frequency of contact and accessibility.

“The one area where universally people need to improve is on proactively managing the relationship.  This is true for all types of service people—advisers and RMs,” Schroder noted. “Generally, service personnel receive ratings that are 10-15% lower in the proactive approach metric versus other metrics like knowledge or responsiveness. They need to get out in front of the sponsor and be proactive to address issues before they blow up.”

As for RMs receiving higher satisfaction ratings than advisers in the small-plan space, Schroder says this has been consistent over the last five years.  “Sponsors tend to see the relationship manager at a recordkeeper as a strength.  Advisers aren’t exactly a weakness, but they aren’t a strength either,” he said.

Schroder recognized that it hard to assess how much involvement the adviser is trying to have with the small-market plan sponsor when surveying the sponsors. “Some advisers want to be very involved, others want the provider to take care of the clients while they just want to be involved in the higher level needs like investment selection or perhaps education. Others want a hybrid approach. It’s hard to quantify from the sponsor,” he said, suggesting that if an adviser chooses to be more involved with his small-plan clients, he would score better in the survey.

“Small-market providers have done a much better job of improving their service levels and advisers haven’t kept pace,” Schroder observed.  “As outsourcing relationships get solidified and more entrenched, and as large-market customization rolls down hill, it’s germinating into better service for the small-market sponsor.”


For Immediate Release
Contact: Andrew Cloutier
Anova Consulting Group, LLC
(617) 731-1045

Anova Consulting Group Introduces Online Participant Satisfaction Survey Tool

BROOKLINE, MASS., April 24, 2012 – Anova Consulting Group, a leading provider of customized market research, sales training and consulting services to defined contribution, investment management and human capital management companies, announced today a new participant-focused program for retirement providers and plan sponsors.

The Participant Perspective Satisfaction Tool enables individual plan sponsors to survey their participants (and non-participants) and interpret satisfaction levels on an absolute and relative basis. By gathering constructive feedback from employees, sponsors will be able to better understand their participants’ needs, increase plan participation, and gain insights as to how their participant satisfaction levels compare to those of similar firms.

“For years, recordkeepers have conducted participant satisfaction research, but plan sponsors typically have limited access to their own participant satisfaction information.” said Richard Schroder, president of Anova Consulting Group. “Now, Anova has created a web application that allows plan sponsors to collect participant satisfaction information through an independent third party in a simple, “plug and play” process that generates an online survey for distribution to participants.”

A personalized online dashboard displaying real-time results is created for each participating plan sponsor. Sponsored by retirement providers as a client loyalty program, plan sponsors will gain access to Anova Consulting Group’s participant research capabilities at no cost to them.

Key benefits to participating plan sponsors include the ability to identify strengths, weaknesses and gaps within the sponsor’s employee benefit programs, as well as the ability to benchmark participant satisfaction ratings against other Perspective users and segment results by participant demographic information.

Schroder added that “Anova is currently in discussions with a number of recordkeepers and DCIO players who are considering offering the Perspective program to key plan sponsor clients and retirement plan advisors.”

About Anova Consulting Group, LLC

Established in 2005, Anova Consulting Group is a leading market research and consulting firm focused on Win / Loss analysis and client satisfaction analysis. By helping its clients understand why they win, lose and retain business, Anova provides strategic perspectives to its clients, driving better decision-making, product development, sales effectiveness, client service, and continuous improvement. Last year, Richard Schroder, president of Anova, released a Win Loss Analysis book titled, From a Good Sales Call to a Great Sales Call (McGraw-Hill, 2011), which details how learning from post-sale Win / Loss debriefing helps close more sales.

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