Interview: Ross Marino, Rekon Intelligence

When I started my own practice in 2010, one of my goals was to help financial advisors with their practice and their clients.

At that time, I learned about 401(k) Rekon and their plans for seminars nationwide to educate financial advisors on how to start and grow a retirement plan practice and I’ve been a fan ever since. Ross Marino had a great idea back then and he’s grown 401(k) Rekon into Rekon Intelligence with its own annual convention in Las Vegas called Excel 401(k).

Q: How did you come up with the idea for 401(k) Rekon?
A: I had been a financial planner for about 10 years when I decided to offer 401(k) plans. Those early years weren’t easy. Most of the education and conferences targeted experienced advisors who worked with mid to large size plans. And broker-dealers lacked the resources and capacity to assist new, 401(k) advisors. Fast forward 10 years, and I had more than 30 plans, and began teaching Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits for the Certified Financial Planner program. It was during that time I realized many advisors shared my previous frustration with trying to learn the 401(k) marketplace. So I decided to launch 401(k) Rekon as a way to help advisors learn our business.

Q; How many events does 401(k) Rekon hold a year and how many advisors attend?
A: Since 2009, we have averaged more than 100 events per year, and more than 15,000 advisors have attended our events.

Q: How did you start in the 401(k) business?
A: My story is similar to many financial planners. One of my clients needed a 401(k) plan. I could either refer it away, for figure out how to do it myself. Fortunately, I loved my first plan and decided to commit time and energy learn more.

Q: You started the annual Excel 401(k) conference a couple of years ago. How do you differentiate with the other conferences out there?
A: Excel 401(k) started with a simple question: What would the ultimate advisors’ conference look like? By advisor, I mean someone whose primary business is advising clients. I spent considerable time thinking about that. Then I interviewed other top advisors and industry professionals. Our Advisor Board is exclusively financial advisors. Advisors shape the agenda and the experience. I’m not aware of any conference that is exclusively created by producing financial advisors, for producing financial advisors. 401(k) Rekon has no products or services that we sell to financial advisors, other than our conference. Our entire focus is creating the ultimate conference experience for producing financial advisors. That’s why our slogan is “The Advisors’ Conference”.

Q: You’re still an advisor and run 401(k) Rekon, how do you do it all?
A: My primary role is being a financial advisor. I do not have daily responsibilities with 401(k) Rekon. Fortunately, we have a great team that manages Rekon. I consult with respect to the agendas. Meaning, I work with broker dealers and strategic partners to ensure every session at every event brings value to producing financial advisors.

Q: How do you think fee disclosure has impacted the retirement plan business in the last 4 years?
A: Transparency is a beautiful thing. The disclosures were necessary, especially for high-cost providers. Disclosures have forced many to both justify and lower their fees. In addition, it spurred competition, which benefits the marketplace.

Q: 401(k) Rekon attracts lots of brokers to attend, how do you think the new fiduciary rule will impact the retirement plan business?
A: The rule will drive some advisors out of the business, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We need qualified advisors who are accountable for their services.

Q: Do you think revenue sharing and proprietary mutual funds are endangered species in the 401(k) world?
A: Conflict of interest is endangered, and full disclosure is becoming standard practice. Those are positive developments, and cause me to question the future of both revenue sharing and proprietary mutual funds.

Q: One of the speakers at Excel 401(k) claimed the fiduciary rule will cause 100,000 to 150,000 brokers to leave the business, do you think it’ll be that bad?
A: I’ve been an advisor for 28 years, and I’ve made a few predictions along the way. Most didn’t work out so well, so I won’t pick a number for this question. But I definitely agree that an exodus is coming, and I don’t necessarily see it as “bad”.

Q:How does an advisor find out more information about 401(k) Rekon?
A: Please visit

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