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Top 8 Attributes of a High-Value Advisor

By MassMutual@Work

Retirement plan sponsors who work with an advisor find them highly valuable, according to a 2016 survey published by MassMutual Financial Group. But it’s a competitive market. Whether they’re seeking to attract new clients or simply want to keep the clients they have, advisors need to stand out – from their peers and in the minds of the sponsors whose needs they serve.

What qualities inspire a plan sponsor’s confidence and trust? This is what MassMutual’s survey results had to say, presented in their order of importance:

Knowledgeable. Plan sponsors value an advisor’s retirement plan expertise above all else, and may look elsewhere if they find this essential quality lacking. Advisors should demonstrate a strong working knowledge of retirement plan options, features and investment selections. They should also be prepared to offer expert guidance on plan designs, deliver employee education and help sponsors understand and fulfill their fiduciary obligations.

Honest and trustworthy. Like all investors, plan sponsors need to know they are working with an advisor they trust to deliver services with honesty and integrity – to protect the interests of plan participants and their own interests as fiduciaries of the plan.

Accessible and responsive. Plan sponsors want quick, dependable service they can count on. They value advisors who consistently demonstrate their commitment by returning phone calls and emails promptly, making themselves available for in-person meetings, and responding quickly with solutions when needed or helpful.

Good communication skills. Retirement plan concepts can be complex. The ability to distill these concepts into simple language that sponsors and employees can understand is an important part of the sales and support process. It’s also essential for encouraging employee participation.

Easy to work with. The advisor is a central figure in a larger retirement plan team that includes the plan sponsor, plan provider, recordkeeper and support staff. Teamwork is required, and advisors who are personable and ready to help can help make the process more efficient and enjoyable for everyone – while always remaining focused on upholding their sponsor’s best interests.

Good listener. Highly valued advisors put their clients’ needs first. They spend more time listening than talking, skillfully gathering information and insight about the clients’ business, objectives and motivations – because they know this is the best way to tailor a plan that meets the clients’ retirement plan needs. It also helps establish a sponsor-advisor relationship to build upon.

Plan sponsors want and need an advisor who serves them in a proactive way. This translates to communicating activities performed on the plan, reviewing the plan and its performance at least annually, making new design recommendations, noting compliance issues and keeping the sponsor apprised of new developments in the retirement plan industry.

Engaging proactively not only helps the advisor serve the clients’ ongoing retirement plan needs, it also demonstrates a level of commitment and personalized attention that can set the advisor apart.

Holds financial credentials. There are more than 100 certifications and designations for financial planners, but those with the most rigorous requirements are Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA). These designations reassure plan sponsors of an advisor’s level of expertise.


For more information about MassMutual’s 2016 study results, visit "A Winning Combination."