American Century Investments, the Kansas City-based investment management company that has built its brand on actively managed mutual funds, has tapped an LPL executive to lead its new Retirement Strategy and Services division.
“We’re moving to position ourselves as a ‘retirement destination’,” said Peter Cieszko, the company’s chief client officer for the Americas.
Adam Sokolic, who had been a vice president with LPL’s Retirement Partners division, will move to American Century to lead the new division.
Sokolic led the development and marketing of LPL’s advisor platform for delivering advice to plan participants.
Retirement is already embedded in all of American Century’s businesses, said Cieszko. Of the $150 billion in assets under management in the company’s funds, $40 billion are held in defined benefit and contribution plans and in IRAs. About $12 billion are in the company’s proprietary target-date funds.
The company’s newly organized retirement focus comes as litigation and technology continue to put downward pressure on the fees plan participants and retail investors pay.
Cieszko said the creation of a centralized retirement division is not a direct reaction to either trend specifically, but an effort to evolve the fund company with the outcome oriented solutions more sponsors are demanding.
“Right now the Holy Grail in the retirement industry is financial wellness,” he said.
And financial wellness can’t be understood without answering the core questions of what is good financial advice, and what should it cost.
“Advice is personal to the needs of individuals. Making the conversation on fees about a race to zero doesn’t consider the needs and interests of all investors.”
Cieszko does not see the “robo” movement as a threat to American Century’s model, which applies a price to its professionally managed funds.
“Fees are an issue only when the value-proposition of the management is in question, in the absence of value-add.”
The robo movement won’t eliminate the need for actively managed funds, but rather provides a “tech overlay” that compliments, but can never fully replace human interaction.
“Technology and the robo movement can increase the value of quality advice,” said Cieszko. “At the end of the day, that will make for a better experience for the client.”