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Monday, April 16, 2018

The 401k Industry Takes Nashville

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

Nashville is the place to be this week if you're in, or interesting in getting into, the advisor-sold side of the 401(k) business.

More than 2,200 defined contribution industry insiders, including more than 1,100 FAs, have converged on Music City for the 2018 NAPA 401(k) Summit. The three-day conference, which started yesterday afternoon and will wrap up at lunchtime tomorrow, has grown to be the biggest conference in the entire 401(k) industry. Our sister publication 401kWire is onsite, covering the conference.

The giant event has a distinctly FA flavor to it. Think Schwab Impact, TD LINC, Pershing INSITE, or the Morningstar Investment Conference, not the ICI GMM. There are big parties (with live country music — this is Nashville, after all), offsite vendor dinners, practice management breakout sessions, and keynote speeches from experts on millennials and cybersecurity. Yet unlike many of the giant retail FA conference, the NAPA 401(k) Summit is run by a non-profit industry trade group (the National Association of Plan Advisors, NAPA, led by executive director Brian Graff), and not by an industry vendor. That may make the summit more neutral ground for different vendors to attend and support.

Fundsters and retail FAs will recognize many of the exhibiting companies — brand name fund firms, big broker-dealers, insurance companies, etc. — but perhaps not the faces at the booths, which are packed with executives from the DC I-O or recordkeeping or retirement plan home office sides of these firms. And the FAs, too, are just a bit different from their wealth management-focused brethren.

The big questions looming over the NAPA 401(k) Summit are the same ones looming over the wealth management world: is the DoL rule (i.e. the fiduciary reg) really dead, and if so, what's next? The answers, so far, seem to be a resounding "Stay tuned!" followed by urgings to "Stay the course" with fiduciary-friendly adaptations. The post-fiduciary reg world, it seems, is not quite here. 

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