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401(k) Real Talk Transcript for July 3, 2024

Transcript of Episode 112 of 401(k) Real Talk.

Greetings and welcome to this week’s edition of 401k Real Talk & happy 4th of July. This is Fred Barstein contributing editor at’s RPA omnichannel and CEO at TRAU, TPSU & 401kTV - I review all of last week’s stories and select the most important and interesting ones providing open honest and candid discussion you will not get anyway else. So let’s get real! 


In a landmark case, the US Supreme Court overturned their 1984 Chevron decision that allowed agencies, not courts, to interpret ambiguous laws. Chevron has been cited tens of thousands of times by lower courts and could dramatically affect how many agencies including the SEC, DOL, EPA and OSHA operate.

The decision is being hailed as a victory for businesses and conservatives while critics claim that courts lack the technical expertise that domain expert agency staff enjoy. A single judge can now more easily negate a law giving more power to the judicial branch.

Overturning Chevron makes it even more likely that the DOL rule will be negated.


Maybe it’s just a coincidence but immediately after announcing that Fisher Investments is taking $3 bn from an Abu Dhabi fund, it was announced that Ken Fisher’s son, Nathan, will take their 401k Retirement Solutions private no longer a part of the mother ship.

Focused on the small and micro 401k markets, Nathan has grown assets to $4.75 billion which, while small compared to the $275 billion that Fisher Investment manages, it is one of the larger small market 401k practices.

Nathan’s group created zero expense CITs allowing him to charge over 100 bps for advisory services and still be competitive. It will be interesting to see whether that pricing scheme will change when they go independent.


As the momentum for in-plan retirement income grows, so does the need for plans and participants to transfer the guarantee when they change record keepers.

Rather than putting the burden on record keepers to build interconnectivity, middleware providers have emerged to do the heavy lifting.

One of these firms, a relatively new fintech entrant Micruity, announced a $5 million investment from Prudential, TIAA and State Street after previously raising $6 million from Pac Life, all eager to make retirement income more available in DC plans.

Stay tuned as this industry tries to overcome many of the challenges that in-plan retirement income faces.


Led by concerns about quality of service, M&A activity and growth of plan sponsors, more plans, especially with +$100m are likely to switch record keepers according to a Cogent study with 1300 plans ranging from $5-$500m in assets. Average tenure has dropped for larger plans 12% since 2022.

Plans also cited concerns about investment fees, participant engagement and cyber security.

Record keepers are not immune from the war for talent not only making high quality talent scarce and more costly resulting in diminished service quality, the intense provider consolidation has led plans to search for a new record keeper when theirs is sold. And plan sponsors might outgrow their provider as they add employees or buy other firms.

With increasing tech costs and concerns about cybersecurity as well as the desire by employers for providers to help their employees, the game has changed for record keepers with only a few able to keep up. Similar issues are being faced by RPAs.


At a recent TPSU training program focused on managed accounts, one plan sponsor asked why she needed them as her retirement plan advisor provided guidance to her employees. Why incur additional expense?

The reality is that even the most well-intentioned RPA with significant resources cannot effectively work with every employee. Most still focus on the Triple Fs (fees, funds & fiduciary) and even the most resource rich advisory firms do not have a vetted wealth stack like wealth managers who, by the way, are not equipped to help the less wealthy at scale.

Read my recent column about how advisors can leverage managed accounts to create more engagement without which the costs will be difficult to justify and may also lead to greater adoption of retirement income.


So those were the most important stories from the past week. I listed a few others I thought were worth reading covering:

  1. NEPC questions whether the value of managed accounts justifies the cost
  2. Largest TDF providers continue to dominate
  3. Schroeders study highlights top issues for retirement savers
  4. SPARK & Vanguard to host SECURE 2.0 workshop
  5. What role does AI play in ERISA lawsuits?

 Please let me know if I missed anything or if you would like to comment. Otherwise I look forward to speaking to you next week on 401k Real Talk.


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