New research from Fidelity Investments shows plansponsors across most size segments are more conscious of theirfiduciary obligations than inyears past.

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And that is affecting how sponsors regard the value incumbentplan advisors are delivering.

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Related: What is fiduciary investment advice under the DOLfiduciary rule?

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By and large, plan sponsors are satisfied with their advisors,as two-thirds report getting good value from their services,according to this year’s Plan Sponsor Attitudes study, the7th edition of the survey.

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But despite reporting relatively high levels of satisfaction,nearly one quarter of sponsors said they are actively looking tochange plan advisors, siting the need for advisors more expert inmanaging sponsors’ fiduciary responsibilities.

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Related: Audits common, but not lawsuits, for retirementplans

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For the first time in the study’s history, sponsors saidmanaging their fiduciary responsibility was the top reason they usethe services of a specialist plan advisor.

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Nearly four in 10 sponsors said they are “concerned” about theirfiduciary obligations under the Employee Retirement Income SecurityAct, an increase from the 24 percent of sponsors who said as muchlast year.

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And 69 percent of sponsors ranked an advisor’s willingness toprovide formal fiduciary services as important — more than at anyother time in the survey’s history.

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Another year of high-profile lawsuits against 401(k) planssponsors, combined with media attention given to the U.S.Department of Labor’s finalized fiduciary rule, could explain someof sponsors’ growing awareness of their fiduciary obligations.

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Plan advisor specialists should be motivated by this year’sdata, implied Jordan Burgess, who oversees defined contributioninvestment only sales at Fidelity.

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“While plan sponsors are more satisfied than ever, they are alsostarting to expect more from their advisors,” said Burgess in astatement.

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“The DOL’s rule on investment advice gives specialist planadvisors the opportunity to raise the game. If they are successfulat demonstrating their knowledge, these plan advisors couldpotentially expand their share of the market and become even morecompetitive,” said Burgess.

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Satisfaction on the rise

Fidelity’s survey finds sponsor satisfaction with advisors hassteadily increased since 2012.

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Back then, 60 percent of sponsors reported satisfaction,compared to 72 percent in 2016.

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That, however, is not an invitation for advisor complacency. Thenearly one-quarter of sponsors that said they are actively lookingfor a new sponsors in 2016 is twice the number of sponsors thatsaid they were looking to change advisors in 2013.

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Fidelity cites 2015 data from consultancy McKinsey and Co.,which said roughly $1.3 trillion in retirement plan assets willchange providers by 2020.

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This year, sponsors said the most common reason for making achange was the need for a more knowledgeable advisor, according toFidelity’s report.

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Sponsors are increasingly focused on improving plan performance,the report found, which could explain their pursuit of moreknowledgeable advisors. Over the past two years, 87 percent ofsponsors have made a change to their investment menus. Addressingplan performance and reducing fees were the top two reasons formaking the changes.

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And 86 percent of sponsors have made changes to plan design,including adding automatic enrollment and automatic deferralincreases, Roth 401(k)s, and implementing or changing the employermatch.

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Advisors, more than recordkeepers, were the primary influencersof those changes, according to more than two-thirds of surveysponsors.

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Participants delaying retirement at record levels

Nearly nine in 10 sponsors report having plan participants thatare delaying retirement because of inadequate savings.

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Often, that translates to higher labor costs and potentialproduction issues for employers, realities that may also beencouraging sponsors’ investment in participant outcomes, and thecrave for more knowledgeable advisors.

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Despite the record number of sponsors that report having workersdelaying retirement, the vast majority of plans have yet toimplement established savings goals.

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Only 32 percent of plan sponsors define savings or retirementincome goals for participants, this year’s report found.

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