Investment Advisor Selection Process

Leading Retirement Solutions regularly conducts investment advisor searches for our clients across the country. Ask us about the 115 investment advisors our company owner interviewed in a single year!


Our process includes an investment advisor search, interview process and assistance with your ultimate selection so that you can make the best, informed decision for yourself as the business owner, your retirement plan and your employees. 

  1. LRS Reviews With Client: Goals, priorities, needs, & pain points of owners, human resource managers and  plan participants
  2. LRS Interviews 4-8 Investment Advisors/Firms 
  3. Client interviews 2-4 Investment Advisors/Firms (use our Interview Questions, below) 
  4. Review Investment Advisor Proposals, Service Commitments and Fee Disclosures 
  5. The best Investment Advisor for client's organization is selected

We are retirement plan experts and commit significant time and resources to understanding the investment advisory and broker community. Investment advisors play a key role in helping plan sponsors fulfill their fiduciary and investment obligations to a retirement plan and its participants, so the selection of the right investment advisor is an important one. 

Based on our experience, when selecting and hiring an investment advisor for your retirement plan, there are a few “deal breakers” that will help ensure the compliance of your retirement plan and help limit your liability as a fiduciary to the plan: 
  1. Secure an Investment Advisor, rather than a Broker. Ask the investment advisor if they are registered with the SEC.
    1. Investment Advisors sell a service e.g. investment advising and consulting. Investment advisors are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Investment advisors are paid for the advice they provide to you and your retirement plan. All investment advisors are held to a fiduciary standard of care. 
    2. Brokers sell investment products for and on behalf of their employer. Brokers get paid by their employer for selling investment products to you and your retirement plan. Most brokers are held to a suitability standard of care. Brokers are not licensed or authorized to give advice to clients about investments. 
  2. Is the Investment Advisor properly licensed? The governing bodies over Investment Advisors and their activities are FINRA & the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission).
    1. An advisor must be licensed with FINRA and/or the SEC to be able to provide investment advice services, so if you are not able to locate the investment advisor ask him/her to provide you with the information you need to look them up. 
    2. Review and understand the employment history of the advisor, industry exams passed and credentialing attained. 
    3. Review any “disclosure events” including instances of consumer complaints, sanctions, investigations, judgments against the advisor or even being barred from the industry. A 2016 academic study found that 7% (approx.) of advisors registered with FINRA have misconduct on their record  
    4. If there are events, understand the nature of those events (detailed information will be provided) and how the event was resolved so that you are making an informed decision as to whether you want to proceed with securing the Investment Advisor’s services. 
    5. Conduct a web based (e.g. Google) search to find any other information about the investment advisor, including advisor terminations, actual scores earned on licensing exams, bankruptcy filings and tax liens.
    6. Some state securities regulators also offer reports that provide a fuller picture of an advisor’s record, but the availability of these reports varies widely. PIABA offers a list of state agencies PIABA - State Securities Regulatory Agencies.
  3. Does the Investment Advisor sell investment products or does the Investment Advisor provide investment advice? There is a big difference. 
    1. It is important that you know if the investment advisor can and will work with an open architecture investment platform or if they are required to use a single bundled platform and must select from a limited number of investment products offered by that single platform. 
    2. Open architecture refers to a trading and recordkeeping platform that makes a wide range of investment vehicles available to a retirement plan and its participants. In contrast, a broker or bundled platform makes a limited number of investment options available. Make sure to select an investment advisor who will work with an open architecture platform ensuring that, throughout the lifetime of the plan, you will have access to the broadest range of best in class investments to select from. 
    3. What does the Investment Advisors agreement/contract say? Ask the Investment Advisor to show you their standard agreement (they all use a standard pre-approved agreement) and to show you the sections that address the services the Investment Advisor is agreeing to provide and to take fiduciary responsibility for.
        4. Is the Investment Advisor independent?
Captured advisors or those advisors who work only with proprietary platforms are usually compensated by the proprietary platform providers for selecting their platform. Also, investment options are generally limited or restricted preventing an advisor from truly selecting a best in class investment lineup. 

An independent Investment Advisor who has access to the world of available investment options can assure that all funds are offered at net asset value and compensation is not affected by the investment provider and/or investments that an advisor recommends to you, thus eliminating undue influence. The use of an open architecture platform also allows for full fee transparency and revenue sharing, thus allowing plan advice to be free from bias and influence. Be sure to use an advisor who is familiar with these concepts and embraces full fee disclosure.

  • 5. Is the Investment Advisor licensed to provide advice to your employees? 
The Investment Advisors we work with provide participant and plan sponsor support. These advisors help your employees select appropriate investments, provide ongoing education and diligently monitor participant allocations, recommending changes that may be needed over time. Support from your plan service providers is critical to creating a strong value proposition around your employee benefits program, including your retirement plan. Make sure the advisor you select doesn’t limit his/her support to the plan sponsor.
        6. An experienced retirement plan Investment Advisor 

The majority of investment advisors out in the marketplace serve as individual wealth advisors vs. retirement plan advisors. More often, nowadays, advisors are attempting to enter the retirement plan space so as to not lose their individual wealth clients. The responsibilities related to advising on a company retirement plan are vastly different from the fiduciary obligations an advisor has when advising on individual wealth. Most important is the support you will need in communicating the plan to your employees as well as making sure that all ongoing and new IRS and DOL requirements are fulfilled. Make sure that the investment advisor you select has the skill and experience necessary to advise on a company retirement plan, as well as support you in meeting your fiduciary obligations.

       7. Reasonable Fees 

If you are a small plan (under $1 million in plan assets), most retirement plan advisors charge a minimum fee of $3,000-$5,000 annually, not an ideal pricing schedule for a small plan. We have searched the country to identify those advisors who do not charge a minimum fee and we have found them. The advisors we bring to the relationship are focused on the long-term opportunity as the plan grows and also potential ancillary business. 

These advisors also offer very reasonable pricing. A total of .50 to 1.00 basis points is in the range of fees we see assessed to company retirement plans by advisors. The advisors we work with, particularly on small plans, don’t penalize you for being a small plan and charge .50 basis points. By way of example, if your plan has $250,000 in assets/investable monies an advisor would earn $1,250 per year ($250,000 x .0050).

  1. 8. Request a Service Agreement & Fee Disclosure from each Investment Advisor
                a. You will learn a lot by reviewing competing proposals. These proposals can be hard to compare, ask for help. 
                b. The Department of Labor wants to see how you arrived at your decision. These documents arm you with the information you need to respond.

Leading Retirement Solutions regularly conducts investment advisor interviews for our clients. If you are interested in this service, let us know.


We have provided a list of questions that you can ask during the investment advisor process. This list is not exhaustive but is intended to address a few of the most important factors when selecting an advisor to your plan. If you have other areas of concern, let us know so that we can provide you more questions applicable to your concern(s).

  1. Do you currently serve as an advisor for company retirement plans? 
    1.  If so, what kind of plans? 
    2. What percentage of your practice is focused on advising company retirement plans vs. individual wealth advising? 
    3. How many plans do you advise on? 
    4. What professional groups are you associated with? 
    5. Have you obtained any credentials/certifications related to the retirement plan industry? 
    6. Do you participate in continuing education courses? 
  2. How are you compensated?
    1. Identify any and all direct and indirect compensation including fees deducted from plan investments and assessed against a portfolio’s assets. 
    2. Do you accept any 12b-1, sub-TA or any other type of referral fee from any vendor?  
  3. How do you select the funds you recommend?
  4. What is the process you would go through to develop and recommend an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) for our organization? +An IPS is a written policy used as a guideline for investment decisions by the plan’s fiduciaries.
  5. What are a few common plan design features you most often recommend to your clients and why are those features important? 
  6. Do you have a team to help support our service needs? 
  7. Ongoing Support-Describe how you would work with us throughout the year 
    1. Describe the support you provide to the plan sponsor 
    2. Describe the support you provide to plan participants 
      1. Describe enrollment support you provide 
      2. Describe any other education you provide 
  8. How do you keep up to date on regulations and trends affecting company retirement plans
 Contact a Leading Retirement Solutions team member, today, to learn more about our Investment Advisor review and search services. 

Kirsten Curry, President 
Leading Retirement Solutions 
(206) 430-5084 ext. 7006 

Leading Retirement Solutions

(206) 430-5084 phone
  (800) 974-2814 (toll free)


Our mission: to proactively support organizations and lead them toward a secure future.