New Cogent Syndicated Study Reveals Brand Equity Leaders Among Top Plan Advisors

November 16, 2021

Fidelity Investments, Empower Retirement and Vanguard have the highest brand equity among defined contribution (DC) advisors managing $50 million or more in DC assets (also known as DC specialists), positioning them to expand their plan provider business in the DC market. These and other findings are from Retirement Plan Advisor Trends™, an annual Cogent Syndicated™ study from Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics advisory firm.

To better assess the overall brand strength of the leading DC providers, Cogent Syndicated combines the measures of unaided consideration, overall brand awareness and favorable impression into a single brand equity score. This composite measure is then indexed to 100 and divided into quartiles to provide annual benchmarking. Strong performances on our brand equity composite identify the firms best positioned to gain new clients and recordkeeping dollars in the increasingly competitive DC market. In this year’s study, Fidelity, Empower and Vanguard are most competitively ranked in the top quartile among DC specialists. American Funds, Voya, Ascensus, John Hancock, ADP Retirement Services and Principal Financial Group constitute the second quartile.

“One way for firms to boost their brand equity ranking among DC specialists is to focus on building top-of-mind brand consideration,” said Sonia Davis, senior product director at Escalent and lead author of the report. “Brand trustworthiness, reliability and showcasing a commitment to fee transparency and disclosure are essential attributes plan providers must demonstrate to increase their plan sponsor recommendations among these elite producers.”

The providers listed below have the strongest overall brand equity rankings among plan advisors managing at least $50 million in DC assets.

Top 10 Firms for DC Plan Provider Brand Equity Among DC Specialists

  1. Fidelity Investments
  2. Empower Retirement
  3. Vanguard
  4. American Funds
  5. Voya
  6. Ascensus
  7. John Hancock
  8. ADP Retirement Services
  9. Principal Financial Group
  10. Charles Schwab

Base: Plan Advisors with $50M+ in DC AUM
Source: Escalent. Cogent Syndicated. Retirement Plan Advisor Trends™. September 2021.

“Overall brand awareness and favorability are also key pieces of the puzzle,” added Linda York, senior vice president at Escalent. “It’s not enough for plan advisors to recognize your brand name from advertising, email or social media efforts. Providers must be working diligently to build positive impressions of their firms whether it stems from superior client service or relevant value-add offerings and thought leadership.”

About Retirement Plan Advisor Trends™

Cogent Syndicated, a division of Escalent, conducted an online survey of a representative cross section of 682 plan advisors from August 18 to August 25, 2021. Survey participants were required to have an active book of business of at least $5 million and be actively managing DC plans. Strict quotas were set during the data collection period, and post-fielding statistical weighting (where necessary) was applied. The data have a margin of error of ±3.75% at the 95% confidence level. Escalent will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

For more information on the full report, click below.

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