Interview: Chuck Hammond, The 401(k) Study Group

A big part of my practice as an ERISA attorney is helping out financial advisors around the country with their clients and with their practice. So I always have an admiration for those in the retirement plan industry that help out plan providers with their practice and advising them about good practices that will help them with their business and their clients.

Chuck Hammond is someone doing the good work as his work at The 401(k) Study Group has worked with advisors around the country in helping them build their retirement plan practice.

Q: What is the 401(k) Study Group?

A: The 401k Study Group® is a series of social/digital platforms that bring tools, vendors and solutions to Advisors that help them grow and scale. It is permission based and on-demand. We strive to give voice to innovation and present smaller firms concerned about the Advisor experience to our Advisor-Members. It was built to encourage collaboration.

Q: How did you come up with the idea of the 401(k) Study Group?

A: We actually have a box in our office labeled “Really Good Bad Ideas”. This was one of them. We asked ourselves 3 questions. 1. Why aren’t more Advisor building their financial services practice around the retirement plan? 2. Where is there an agnostic resource for 401k-centric Advisors? and finally 3. Why aren’t 401k Advisors sharing and collaborating?

Q: How many members do you have in the 401(k) Study group and is it just comprised of advisors/brokers?

A: Our Advisors-members are north of 8,000. We have Partners that support our work and believe that there is a better way for them to reach Advisors. For the past 20 years, it has all been interruption based. Our members are looking for true partners than can help them grow and scale. But most importantly they want to know what other successful Advisors are doing and what tools they are deploying. We share that with them.

Q: How did you start in the 401(k) business?

A: I started in the 401k business really out of self-defense. I needed a niche inside of the firm I worked in. The firm had a large number of corporate clients and the retirement plan was one item that was not being looked at and serviced. It was a different way to approach working with corporate clients. I believe it still is.

Q: How do you think the fiduciary rule will impact the retirement plan business and the members of The 401(k) Study Group?

A: I think there are three types of stakeholders. Those running toward the fear, those running away and those paralyzed. Overall I see consolidation. This is a great time for Advisors to be having conversations locally with their peers about buying practices. It’s going to happen and that is an opportunity for those “running towards the fear”.

Q: What do you think will happen with revenue sharing and proprietary mutual funds?

A: First, I am not sure what will happen with revenue sharing. I think we as Advisors are being asked to run our business like a CPA or an Attorney. Revenue sharing is just one of the issues surrounding transparency that Advisors need to be aware of an address.

Q: How do you think the rampant 401(k) litigation affect smaller and medium sized plan?

A: Litigation grabs your attention, whether you’re an Advisor, Plan Sponsor or a platform manufacturer. I hope it’s used for “good”. The overall thought for years is that litigation won’t touch small plans. I guess that thinking was a bit optimistic. I hope the headlines spur more Plan Sponsors into taking a solid look at all of the moving parts in side their plans.

Q: Not many people in the retirement plan business can say they were affiliated with a CFL Grey Cup Champion. How were you involved with the 1995 Grey Cup Champion, Baltimore Stallions?

A: My days as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) seem like a lifetime ago. Those are the folks that run onto the field when someone gets injured. I spent a good portion of my early professional life running out onto fields to evaluate athletic injuries. I did that for High School and College athletics as well as in professional football. The CFL was one of those places I did that. It was probably the most fun place I did it though. I had the privilege of working with some great people, players and coaches. With anything I was in the right place at the right time and I was qualified for the job. As an added bonus, I got to see great deal of Canada. I still know all the words to their National Anthem!

Q: How does someone join The 401(k) Study Group?

A: Joining The 401k Study Group® is easy. Visit our site, and click join!

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