The Key Partners That Help Build a Successful Retirement Plan

By: Joe Dillon, CFP®
2 Minute Read

Selecting the right set of providers to support your practice’s 401(k) is crucial to ensuring your plan offers the most suitable benefits for you, your team, and your business. But before getting to the step of selecting (or changing) providers, many plan sponsors find themselves asking: Who are all of the different players that should be involved anyway? And how do they work together?

It’s important to understand all of your potential providers’ roles and how they will partner to meet the needs of your practice’s plan.

Here’s a breakdown of what to consider when determining what’s best for your team:

Who Should Be Involved in My Plan?

There are several key providers that partner with you to run your 401(k) plan:

  1. Recordkeeper
  2. Investment Advisor
  3. Third-Party Administrator (TPA)
  4. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) [ONLY for plans with more than 100 participants]

Depending on the type and complexity of your plan, you may also engage an attorney that specializes in ERISA and/or an actuary. That said, we’ll focus on defining the first three primary service providers:

Investment Advisor

The investment advisor generally helps with the search, selection, and ongoing monitoring of the plan’s investment options. They may host group educational meetings and offer one-on-one sessions that help individual participants make financial decisions.

The advisor may also offer broader consulting services, including benchmarking recordkeeping fees or making suggestions on plan design.


Your recordkeeper provides the website that participants access to view their accounts, make changes to their investments, and request distributions. The recordkeeper will also offer another website for you, the plan sponsor, to manage the plan, make deposits, and add new participants when applicable.

In addition, recordkeepers prepare quarterly participant statements and provide enrollment materials, either in hard copy or online for newly eligible employees.

Finally, the recordkeeper is responsible for tracking plan assets by participant contribution type and investment option. A representative from the recordkeeper may meet with you on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis to discuss your plan and participant trends.

Third-Party Administrator (TPA)

The TPA provides your plan document, executes annual compliance testing, runs contribution calculations, prepares the annual Form 5500, and offers technical expertise on plan design and operation.

How Do All of These Providers Work Together?

The one-stop shop approach is often referred to as a bundled solution, while a team of specialists is unbundled. We’ll take a look at both options:

Bundled Services

A bundled service arrangement combines the services of a recordkeeper and TPA. While having fewer service providers may seem more efficient, a specialized TPA can bring a lot of expertise to the table and provide a high-level of service that is missing from recordkeepers with a more “pared-down” service model.

Unbundled Services

As you can probably guess, an unbundled service arrangement separates the responsibilities of the recordkeeper and TPA. Narrowing the scope of each party may be beneficial, depending on their service model, expertise, and the complexity of your particular plan

What’s Right for You?

 The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors—from your personal preferences to the demands of your business as a whole.

If you’d like to better understand the roles of your current service providers, or feel like it may be time for a change, please reach out to Curi Capital’s Retirement Plan Solutions team at 984-202-2800.

Joe Dillon, CFP®

Joe Dillon is Curi Capital’s Managing Director of Retirement Plan Solutions, based in Raleigh, NC.

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Curi RMB Capital, LLC (“Curi RMB”), is an investment adviser in Chicago, IL with other large offices in Raleigh, NC, Denver, CO, and Milwaukee, WI. Curi RMB is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any specific level of skill or training and does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the SEC. A copy of the firm’s current written disclosure brochure filed with the SEC which discusses, among other things, Curi RMB's business practices, services, and fees, is available through the SEC's website www.adviserinfo.sec.gov..