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Interview: Jon Freye, Xponential Growth Solutions

jon-freye

I’m a big fan of providers trying to educate financial advisors and plan sponsors about the ins and outs of retirement plans. When it comes to plan sponsors, I was pleased to find out about Jon Freye and Xponential Growth Solutions that hosts Retirement Plan Road Show events to educate plan sponsors.

 

Q; How did you start in the retirement plan business?

A: I recently celebrated my 16 year anniversary in the retirement plan business starting in October, 2000 as an intern at A.G. Edwards & Sons.  I worked with a retirement plan focused team in San Diego and began by cold calling local businesses that offered a 401(k) plan.

 

Q: You worked in the brokerage side of the business before starting XPonential Growth, how did you think the fiduciary rule will impact brokerage business? 

A: Brokerage firms have been slow to embrace the idea of having tens of thousands of brokers and sales people be accountable for looking out for other people’s best interest.  In meeting brokers that had a couple retirement/401(k) plans and often had no idea what they were doing, I knew they could not possibly live up to fiduciary level expectations.  On the flip side, the brokerage model that allows for fiduciary status for true experts and specialists makes a lot of sense.   I believe the fiduciary rule will continue to benefit specialists and exit the generalists.

 

Q: How did you come up with the idea of XPonential Growth Solutions?

A: My whole career I saw that plan sponsors were in need of education, training, quality resources, and expert partners.  The market downturn in 2008/2009 lead to a bigger focus on client retention for a lot of firms and this coincided with the biggest desire for plan sponsors to take action on their retirement plan.  I founded Xponential Growth Solutions in 2009 to help plan sponsors get access to education, a second opinion, or a fresh start with higher quality service provider partners.  The matchmaking analogy came about in early discussions with my executive team and early business partners.

 

Q: Many organizations have events to educate advisors, why did you stress events for plan sponsors? 

A: My background is in plan sponsor focused events, having co-hosted over 200 in my career.  Plan sponsors have made major strides in making better educated decisions in hiring and firing service providers, but I still see many mistakes.  The majority of plan sponsors have the best intentions to offer a quality total rewards and retirement plan package, but may not have the knowledge, time, or contacts to convert those great intentions into positive results.  Our events help them convert their best intentions into actionable positive results.

 

Q: How many of these plan sponsor events do you hold annually?

A: Previous years, we hosted 20-25 summits per year.  In 2017, we expect to host 25-30 based on the interest of early plan sponsor registration.

 

Q: How many plan sponsors attend each event and what do they learn at the Retirement Plan Road Shows? 

A: Typical attendance = 30-60 executive plan sponsors and fiduciaries.  We have a format that provides learning sessions from the fiduciary basic level up to the fiduciary expert level.  How to build a strong foundation for the retirement plan with fiduciary governance and protection, a solid high performing investment lineup, and fees in line with quality service received.  For those plan sponsors that have a great plan foundation, we have learning workshop on financial wellness, student loan pay down programs, maximizing plan outcomes, total rewards, Executive Benefits, benchmarking/RFI/RFP best practices.  The final learning objectives, theme, topics, and agenda are customized to better fit our co-hosts focus and attract the type of plan sponsor attendees that will get the most value from attending.

 

Q: How do you get plan sponsors to know there is an XPonetial Retirement Plan Road Show in their area? 

A: We make our Retirement Plan Road Show announcement in December for our upcoming stops in 2017.  We also update our events pages to reflect upcoming events and to allow for proactive plan sponsors to request a RPRS stop in their city.  Once we are a couple months out from the event, we do our community outreach with calls, emails, mailers, press releases, and leverage the local influencers to help spread the word.  We find it takes 3-7 credible and high quality touch points to help Finance, HR, and Benefits executives conclude that our RPRS event will be time well spent.

 

Q:  How do retirement plan providers get involved in speaking at the events?

A: Within the retirement industry, we always have the dedicated advisor expert, or what we brand as the Elite Retirement Consultant, speak.  Because a large amount of value is created by the advisor’s ties and relationships in the industry, we will lean on their service provider partners to also speak.

 

Q: What types of retirement plan providers speak at these events? 

A: Many investment firms and recordkeepers have amazing keynote speakers on retainer.  This year, we had a heavy focus on the experts, attorneys, employee benefit plan auditors, health brokers, TPA’s.  Previous years, we had panels made up of local plan sponsors to discuss best practices.  Our last event of 2016, we did a “speed dating” series of revolving round tables where the industry partners shared a resource or new idea that plan sponsors may not have heard of before.  It helped drive interaction and many plan sponsors walked away with a larger network of plan sponsor peers.

 

Q: Over time, do you the plan litigation and fee disclosure regulations have spurred plan sponsor attendance at the events?

A: The fee disclosure regulations had the highest spike in attendance before the actual implementation and deadlines.  I expected there to be a larger impact, but I am still waiting.  Plan litigation has always been an attendance driver but much less in the first few years as the targets were mega multi $Billion 401(k) sponsors.  More recently, with the focus on smaller plans and 403(b) plans, there has been a larger spike as plan sponsors are starting to realize they could be next.

 

Q: Do you think the new fiduciary rule will also get more plan sponsors to attend these events? A: Absolutely, yes.  Not working with a fiduciary has always been a bad business decision.  The new rule will be another example of why plan sponsors need to be working with fiduciary experts.  Any time there are new regulations, uncertainty, confusion, changes, we see an uptick in interest in RPRS attendance.

 

Q: Where can plan sponsors and plan providers interested in your events find out more information?

A: They can email me directly and visit our website:http://xgrowthsolutions.com/;

www.xgrowthsolutions.com/events/; jfreye@xgrowthsolutions.com

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