SOURCE: The Advisory Group of San Francisco

March 28, 2007 13:00 ET

The Advisory Group of San Francisco Launches Service Suite That Determines 401(k) Plan Effectiveness

More Leverage for Employer Sponsors and Plan Participants

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 28, 2007 -- The Advisory Group of San Francisco, LLC (www.advisorygroupsf.com), a preeminent and fully independent wealth strategy firm, announced it is launching a suite of special services that helps employers who sponsor 401(k) plans optimize their plan results and costs to determine whether fiduciaries and their plan participants are making sound decisions and paying fair fees.

The suite of services, available now, is called "401(k) Effectiveness Analysis,"™ and is a win for both employers and employees because it provides insight into investment design and participant behavior to determine the degree to which a plan is helping or hurting participants.

It also includes a "total cost" study, devised specifically for 401(k) plans by Advisory Group experts, that makes plan costs transparent to employers, giving them the power to decide whether they and their participants are paying fair fees in relation to their plan size.

"Many plan sponsors don't know their true total costs, or who is capturing that revenue," says Greg Patterson, CEO and a senior consultant at The Advisory Group. "This is especially true for plans using the big brand name 401(k) providers that often have hidden costs that neither employers nor their participant employees have the time to weed out or optimize.

"Our service suite provides tremendous value to both employers and participants because it gives them true knowledge, and thus, real leverage with their current or prospective 401(k) providers to negotiate better terms, make enhancements to their plan structure and fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities."

401(k) Effectiveness Analysis leverages The Advisory Group's existing analytical expertise and was previously offered only on a bundled basis. Advisory Group experts have refined the services to the point where they can now be offered in an unbundled, stand-alone solution which complements The Advisory Group's existing service offerings for the 401(k) space.

The Advisory Group's suite of services for 401(k) clients now includes:

--  401(k) Effectiveness Analysis -- A thorough analysis of a company's
    current 401(k) structure that looks closely at a number of factors
    including employee ease of use, the level of advice provided to employees,
    fiduciary compliance, service quality, investment performance vs. peers and
    benchmarks, and the "total cost" study.
    
--  401(k) Vendor Search -- A service that objectively evaluates numerous
    plan provider alternatives, based on the specific needs and goals of the
    client. Quality, service array, costs, flexibility, responsiveness and
    results are some of the factors considered. This analysis helps plans stay
    current with the 401(k) industry's evolution, as well as fulfill certain
    fiduciary responsibilities.
    
--  Full Consulting Engagement -- Includes the 401(k) Effectiveness and
    Vendor Search services as well as an on-going 5-Step process to facilitate
    good decision making by both fiduciaries and plan participants.  A
    consulting engagement involves plan design, investment option design,
    custom portfolio construction, multi-lingual participant education by
    experienced professionals, provider cost controls/negotiations on the
    clients' behalf, mutual fund investment manager search and on-going due-
    diligence and performance reporting, and other services.  Engagements
    usually lead to a reduction in "total costs" net of The Advisory Group's
    fee.
    

The 401k Effectiveness Analysis and Vendor Search services can still be utilized together or on a stand-alone basis, with the option to apply half of the cost of the analysis toward full consulting if clients decide to engage the firm as advisors.

The analysis is geared to plan sizes that "most commonly encounter investment design and cost problems that can generally be easily resolved," Patterson notes. "Plans in the $5 million to $200 million range are most vulnerable to overpaying and being under-served and will benefit the most from this service."

Patterson adds that market and regulatory conditions for these types of services are optimal. "The gyrating stock market is reminding plan sponsors and participants that without custom, pre-built, highly diversified, low-cost asset allocation portfolios or lifestyle options that are automatically rebalanced, their investment options may generate negative risk, cost and quality surprises," he says.

"The recently enacted Pension Protection Act now formally encourages the type of investment option designs that our firm has been helping 401(k) plans build for over 15 years. Fortunately for mid-sized 401(k) plans, there are now much better alternatives to the large bundled providers that are increasingly viewed as inflexible, outdated and often offer only a limited product menu," Patterson adds. "'Open-architecture' structures, on the other hand, are now leap-frogging the bundled plans in service, results and cost, with the help of a good, objective consultant."

The Advisory Group adheres to a fiercely independent stance on behalf of its clients, creating custom, open-architecture, best-of-breed structures and investment alternatives. Patterson stresses the firm has no ties to any product or provider.

"We are process oriented, rather than product or transaction oriented, and we pride ourselves on the independent and objective character of our firm, which is free of all conflicts of interest. For many clients we are their first experience having an expert advocate truly sit on their side of the table," Patterson says.

About The Advisory Group of San Francisco

The Advisory Group (www.advisorygroupsf.com) provides objective guidance and resources for the effective management of investment decisions and fiduciary responsibility. With more than 30 years of experience acting as an investment consultant, financial advocate and process coordinator, The Advisory Group serves institutions and private clients with comprehensive, unbiased advice, through an expert team and leading national institutional resources. The Advisory Group's combination of expertise and access to high-quality investment research through Callan Associates, a global leader in institutional investment consulting tools, services and research is uncommon in the financial professions. Callan consults many of the largest pension funds in the U.S. with combined assets of approximately $1 trillion.

Contact Information

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