Top Financial PR Firm’s Take: 3 Retirement Industry Story Lines That Aren’t Going Away

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Here at Gregory FCA, our clients include some of the brightest minds in the retirement industry. We work with third-party administrators, retirement plan providers and the planners who help savers make the right decisions with their nest eggs.

As we immerse ourselves in this work, several trends and themes remain front and center. For retirement industry players looking to make a splash in the media and influence the never-ending dialogue about the state of retirement in America, pay attention to these three story lines, which we helped clients capitalize on:

  1.        Participation rates are passé; it’s all about outcomes now.

One of the hottest topics in the media today is participant outcomes. Countless studies have been produced and white papers have been written about how to positively affect participant outcomes. After all, it is the goal of offering a retirement plan in the first place, right?

A number of our clients have come up with creative ways to predict and influence participant outcomes. For example, Unified Trust created the UnifiedPlan, which creates a default setting to capitalize on behavioral inertia at every decision point that is actuarially most likely to yield better outcomes. When the firm was looking to publicize its efforts to change the game in favor of 401(k) plan participants, it called upon Gregory FCA to deliver media results, like this one.

The reality is retirement plan industry players need to embrace how the conversation has changed. Has your marketing communications plan kept pace?

  1.        Retirement savings no longer sits on that “three-legged stool.”

The three-legged stool of retirement – pensions, Social Security and personal savings – is, at best, wobbly, and at worst, broken. Pensions are extinct, Social Security is drying up and personal savings are woefully inadequate. No wonder the government wants to get involved.

But if something is broken, why not fix it? That’s the approach Chad Parks and his colleagues took when they produced Broken Eggs, a documentary that shines a very harsh, very honest spotlight on the state of retirement in America today. It acknowledges that the stool analogy is no longer relevant to pre-retirees, but it doesn’t mean that retirement is unattainable.

If the retirement industry can take a good, hard look at itself and come up with a new stool, the fate of retirement in America will be changed forever.

Again, the way to discuss solutions to the looming retirement crisis is through the media. Yahoo! Finance, Hallmark Channel and Employee Benefit Adviser are just some of the media outlets that have spotlighted Broken Eggs as part of ongoing coverage on the looming retirement crisis.

Proactivity in telling the story is important and has proven to have an impact. Producer Sylvia Flores reported that visits to Broken Eggs’ website have increased almost 18-fold since the documentary was released. Lacking a major distribution partner and funded by Chad Parks and key personnel at his firm, media engagement was the sole means for generating buzz and awareness for the film.

The firm embraced the chance to reframe the story, identify with the issue and turn their story into one of action against the changing dynamics in retirement. They used the idea that retirement was under threat as a rallying cry for reaching new audiences who may have felt they didn’t have the tools to counter the negative retirement trends.

  1.        The key to advisor success in retirement plans is specialization.

As the retirement planning landscape becomes more complex, the demand for highly specialized plan advisors is growing.

Working as an administrator for retirement plan assets, Ascensus gets to see firsthand which advisors are most successful in growing their retirement plan businesses. They recognize when it comes to retirement planning, advisors need to be on the leading edge, understanding the latest plan design trends, investment options and fee structures. They also need to be able to effectively relay fiduciary responsibilities to plan sponsors and conduct thorough due diligence to ensure the plan meets participant objectives and savings needs. In short: they need to be specialists in their field.

On a recent trip to New York City, Ascensus’ CEO Bob Guillocheau met with Plan Sponsor magazine’s John Manganaro and discussed how Ascensus helps advisors achieve such a level of specialization. Ascensus empowers retirement plan advisors to embrace the tools that help them do their jobs. Advisors need to come to meetings “armed with data,” and Bob emphasized technology can play a big role in allowing advisors to see the bigger picture and take a deeper dive as needed. While advisors are expected to be able to discuss an overview of the plan’s performance and share information on an individual investor’s portfolio, the difference is made in how an advisor can interpret the data and implement change. Advisors who can speak to the larger benefit a 401(k) plan offers, design a plan that meets investor objectives, and anticipate investor concerns truly set themselves apart.                                                                          

For those in the retirement plan business, ignoring the themes and trends that are on the minds of plan sponsors and retirement savers puts your business in peril. Asserting your voice and incorporating your response into your corporate narrative can be a difference maker in terms of surviving the industry change and capitalizing on the significant opportunities that exist in helping Americans address their retirement planning needs.

Editor’s Note: This post is a collaboration between Marissa and another member of the GregoryFCA team, Lauren Davis.