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401k Request for Proposal: Best Practice Q&A Column

401k Request for Proposal - Best Practices

401k Request for Proposal: Best Practice Q&A Column

Question to the RFP Expert:  We recently completed an Advisor RFP and will soon meet with the top three Finalists in-person.  Are there any best practices or advice that you have for us on the Finals Presentations day?

Ariana Amplo, from InHub It might surprise you but Presentations Day can be quite enjoyable. It might be long but it can still be fun!  You’ve finished what most would consider being the hardest part and now it’s time to find the best fit.

You may find after a thorough evaluation that your incumbent is the best fit.  Re-engaging the incumbent usually comes with extra perks, like lowered fees, or taking advantage of new services you’ve found that they offer. However, you might find another firm who is able to take your committee, and account, to the next level. A new consultant may have more resources, experience, be a better cultural fit, or even offer more services at lower fees. Either way, if you’ve undergone a well-run RFP process, you should be confident that the remaining candidates are all highly qualified and none would be a ‘bad’ choice.    

Prior to Presentations Day make sure all the committee members have access to finalists proposals, especially if a subcommittee selected the finalists.   If you used InHub to manage your RFP process, you would simply invite them to your account.

Logistically, you’ll want to make sure someone is keeping the schedule and watching the clock that day (it can be nice to hold up a, 10 minutes left, warning sign or something similar).  If your committee culture is collaborative and members like to jump in, debate a topic, and ask hard questions, then do that!  Consultants should be able to handle your committee and whatever they ask.  If on the other hand, you prefer to let the presenter finish and ask questions at the end, do that.

It is extremely helpful to have and use scorecards (if you’d like to request a sample scorecard, click here). Scorecards should follow the agenda items, which would typically be what you consider the most important topics. In many cases we’ve seen the following agenda: Firm/Servicing Team Introductions, Investment Approach & Outlook, Recordkeeper RFP Process & Capabilities, Participant Education Services & Success Metrics, and Price.  If this is too detailed we’ve also seen simple scorecards with just 3 items:  Culture Fit, Services & Quality, Price (totaling 100 points).

In-between presentations, it can be very helpful to take a quick vote by show of hands to see if there’s a clear winner between the prior two presentations.  If so, then compare each following candidate by a show of hands to the previous winner to see if you can arrive at a final winner. When you start the debrief, if an initial vote by hands didn’t show a clear winner without discussion (which it probably won’t) – see if you can agree on which firms can be eliminated before starting a discussion. Our favorite is when a unanimous decision occurs, but that only happens about 20% of the time, so be prepared to roll up your sleeves.  It’s helpful to have access to the RFP responses of each presenter in case you want to reference something during the debrief – either a printout or a conference room screen if the responses are stored electronically.  If possible it is best to keep the committee in the room until a final decision is made.

If you would select a firm as the winner if their fees were a bit lower you may want to follow-up before a final decision (some groups put their best fee forward, some are able to sharpen their pencils, it never hurts to ask).

Lastly, have healthy snacks available – hunger and making big decisions is never a good combination!


CEO of InHub – The online RFP Technology for Retirement Plans

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