Rehmann's fee structure depends on plan assets, participants and locations. A $5 million plan with 300 participants in a single location might be 15 to 25 basis points of plan assets while one with 17 locations and multiple employers might be 40 to 60 basis points, he says.

Mike Montgomery, a 401(k) wholesaler for 27 years, started Tampa. Fla.-based Montgomery Retirement Plan Advisors "cold turkey" seven years ago with no existing income stream or client base. He used referrals, conducted cold calling through 401kExchange and T3 Direct, held seminars and partnered with advisors not permitted to accept a fiduciary role. In 2010, The 401kWire named him the top 401(k) advisor in the U.S. in the $5 million to $10 million plan segment.

"A financial advisor with an existing wealth management practice actually would take much of the same approach, but without the time pressure to move so quickly," says Montgomery.

To stay competitive, he provides fiduciary services, quarterly investment monitoring and benchmarking of fees and expenses. The firm is currently expanding its individual wealth management and employee education services.

"Narrowly focused 401(k) advisors like me often build out their wealth management practices eventually in order to introduce a more holistic approach to participant services," says Montgomery.

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