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How to Choose the Right Retirement Plan Provider

Qualifications to help you offer optimal choices for your employees.

A standout benefits package is a must if you are to attract and retain top employees. As a plan sponsor, however, you have certain responsibilities. Because you will have discretion over decisions and actions related to the plan's investments, you are also a fiduciary. When you appoint one or more employees to perform plan-management activities, they become fiduciaries as well. All your plan's fiduciaries should understand their regulatory compliance and ethical responsibilities.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) sets standards of conduct for the fiduciaries who manage an employee benefit plan and its assets. They must be able to demonstrate that the process for making decisions affecting the plan is prudent and in the interest of plan participants and beneficiaries, with documentation of decisions and the basis for making them.

Where fiduciaries lack expertise, it is prudent to hire a retirement-plan service provider with that professional knowledge. Selecting the right provider is a big decision. For your search for and selection of a provider, you will want to have a robust and formalized process, detailed criteria and solid data collection and documentation. Even with an existing plan, it's a good idea to periodically find out what services other vendors are offering and at what cost. Here's an overview of criteria considerations:

Investment Options

Your plan should provide a choice of investment options and opportunities, diversified across asset classes. People with varying levels of knowledge, investment styles and risk profiles have different needs. You want a vendor that can offer a reasonable subset of today's assortment of available funds and provide resources to help employees make their selections. You also want a vendor that will monitor the selection and performance of funds to confirm that they continue to match up with the risk-and-return spectrum you have defined.

Resources for You as the Plan Sponsor

As the plan sponsor, the key services to look for include record keeping, compliance testing, generating statements and reports and providing resources for educating employees. For plan fiduciaries, you want robust online reporting tools, fund reports, quarterly newsletters and news and analysis of industry trends.

Plan Participant Resources

The plan provider should give plan participants a way to learn about the investment solutions being offered. This may include providing general financial investment information and education about advantages of a tax-deferred savings plan, diversification, asset allocation, market volatility and risk/return concepts.

These days, participants will expect online access to their accounts showing their transaction history, fund fact sheets, prospectuses, loan modeling, portfolio rebalancing, quarterly participant newsletters, educational web tutorials, calculators and more. They may also want mobile apps.

Transparent and Competitive Fees

Plan sponsors and participants should be aware of the costs of investments and services associated with their retirement plans. Because the sponsor must show that costs of the plan are reasonable, the ease of monitoring them is important.


The article you read was prepared for general information purposes by McMurry. These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.These articles may provide reference to Internet sites as a convenience to our readers. While PNC endeavors to provide resources that are reputable and safe, we cannot be held responsible for the information, products, or services obtained on such sites and will not be liable for any damages arising from your access to such sites. The content, accuracy, opinions expressed, and links provided by these resources are not investigated, verified, monitored or endorsed by PNC.