Nick Jenkins, VP & Partner at Lewer Financial Advisors, partners with Betterment for Business to provide high-tech, low-cost 401(k) solutions to his clients.
Can you briefly describe your advisory practice and the kinds of clients you serve?
Nick: Lewer Financial Advisors is a part of Lewer Companies, a group of companies serving business owners, families, and individuals. We’re located in the Kansas City area, but we’re licensed in every state and do business across the country and in Canada.
We aim to be a full-service, one-stop shop advisor for business owners often associated with franchise organizations, building relationships at the corporate level and becoming a preferred business services advisor to franchise owners—as individuals as well as employers. The services we provide can include individual wealth management, life insurance (both individual and employer-provided), estate planning, business succession planning, and health and wealth employee benefits. Lewer Benefits Group, LBG, focuses on the medical, dental, vision, and wellness benefits while Lewer Financial Advisors, LFA, focuses on the wealth side of the house, primarily retirement plans with an emphasis on 401(k)s.
What motivated you to enter the 401(k) space?
Nick: From the business standpoint, 401(k)s complement the other services that we’re already providing to the franchise or business owner. Within our health and wealth benefit offering, the 401(k) plan is the largest component. We’re focused on business owners that are determined to grow their businesses and recognize the importance of recruiting and retaining their key employees. When you get in front of the right business owners, a 401(k) plan can represent significant assets, and the plan participants can represent dozens of prospective clients for insurance or other advisory services. We see the 401(k) as a great foundation to building a longer-term, multifaceted relationship.
So do you actively prospect for 401(k) clients?
Nick: No. We build the relationship first, then broach the topic of a 401(k) if and when it’s right for the client. We’ve had more success with this approach than by trying to peel clients away from someone else.
How would you describe your role with respect to the employer and employees?
Nick: It’s critical for us to maintain that relationship, so we are the main point of contact for employers and employees. We tell them we are their one-stop shop, their go-to expert on any topic related to their 401(k) plan. We want them to call us first, whether it’s the employee who needs help signing up online or downloading the app, choosing an investment, using the platform; or the business owner who needs help on plan design decisions such as which type of 401(k) plan to create, what vesting schedule to adopt, whether they should make matching or profit-sharing contributions. Anything like that. And of course we help employers understand compliance and regulatory requirements, including how to remedy any violations that may occur.
Actually, many of those conversations start with the very first meeting once they express interest in offering a 401(k) plan. In just 30 minutes, we go over different plan types, matching, vesting, non-discriminatory testing, etc. We do this early in the process for two reasons: to demonstrate that we are experts in this area and to really expedite the process later on. And because of our relationship with them, we’re able to help guide them through these decisions. We already know a lot about their company, their culture, and their business objectives.
So turning now to how you came upon Betterment, can you talk about that for a bit?
Nick: I believe that we were one of the early Advisors working with Betterment through our growing list of individual clients on the Betterment for Advisors platform, but we’re fairly new to offering the Betterment 401(k). We looked at several providers before determining Betterment was the right 401(k) solution for our clients based on two main factors: the tech-forward platform and competitive pricing. When talking to business owners, I essentially tell them what Betterment for Business tells everyone: “We use the Betterment 401(k) platform to give you a tech-forward product at a good price — lower than what you’re going to find out there in the traditional market. Lower fees mean that employees get to keep more of their investment return. Oh, and by the way, Betterment’s other tools, such as the financial aggregation feature, lets you link all of your financial accounts to a single platform.”
We let clients know that they may “just” be looking to provide a 401(k) to their employees, but that a 401(k) platform can be so much more in terms of total financial planning and having everything in an app on their phone. Advanced technology and accessibility are really cool.
We haven’t looked back since starting to work with Betterment.
Disclaimer: This case study was conducted as a Q&A in 2021 and is not reflective of all client experience, which may vary depending on individual circumstances not considered herein, and is not indicative of future or similar outcomes.