2015 Spark Forum: Hot Topics for the Retirement Services Industry Discussed

The annual SPARK Forum was held recently at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. The conference was attended by retirement industry experts and top leaders from some of the country’s largest retirement investment firms.

While the SPARK National conference (held annually each June in Washington, D.C.) has a heavy focus on policy and regulations, the SPARK Forum conference tends to include more sessions focused on industry trends and best practices related to “reaching” participants— participant education, communications and retirement planning.

Here are a couple of key takeaways from the sessions at SPARK Forum:

  • The trend away from “total balance” and towards “retirement income” reporting for participants has reached near-universal acceptance. According to the 2015 PLANSPONSOR Recordkeeping Survey, nearly 95% of recordkeepers offer a retirement income estimate for participants. The industry believes that participants should be informed about the importance of knowing annual income in retirement (e.g. $65,000 annually), not simply focusing on a “total balance” number (e.g. $1.2 million). This widespread acceptance of retirement income will make conversations about retirement planning easier for advisors as participants are better able to truly understand the impacts of their choices.
  • The focus on Millennials continues to increase, a trend that has been covered at nearly every industry conference across all the markets that Venture serves. With regard to retirement, two of the biggest challenges are getting millennials to understand the importance of a 401(k) (a.k.a. their primary source of retirement income) and getting past the “trust factor”. First, there needs to be a focus on reaching millennials where they are (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, other smartphone apps, etc.) and speaking their “language” when it comes to retirement planning. Being where millennials are and building trust within their networks is vital to gaining them as clients. One session quoted a Pew Research study that found 40% of Baby Boomers believe most people can be trusted, while only 19% of Millennials believe the same. At the end of the day, Millennials want independent validation through a network they value/trust before they make a decision.

This is only a small snapshot of the topics covered in sessions at the SPARK Forum. In addition, the exhibit hall was filled with industry experts showcasing the latest in retirement industry servicing products and services.

The next SPARK Institute conference event is the SPARK National Conference which will be held at the Wardman Park Marriott, Washington, D.C., June 19-21, 2016.

About the author

Strategic Solutions Director

Brian has nearly a decade of experience in the areas of marketing, business development and solution design/development for the transactional customer communications, retirement services and patient billing industries. As strategic solutions director, Brian identifies current and future client opportunities and works to help meet client needs through Venture’s data-driven products and services. Brian joined Venture Solutions in 2013 as marketing manager. Prior to joining Venture, Brian was serving as marketing director for SCICOM Data Services, which was acquired by Venture in 2013. Brian is involved with the Society of Professional Asset Managers and Record Keepers (SPARK), the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM).