How to make Benchmarking and Peer Groups Work for You
April 29, 2019

Last April, Judy Diamond Associates released Retirement Plan Prospector+, a brand new upgrade to Retirement Plan Prospector that features an extensive collection of tools to boost retirement plan prospecting, from back office marketing support to advanced data analytics. One of the features introduced in the Retirement Plan Prospector+ update is the ability to benchmark retirement plans on a level of granularity that hadn’t been possible before.

The Plan Scorecard is a form of retirement plan benchmarking, but the default views available through the Plan Scorecard aren’t always the most useful when looking at how a plan stacks up compared to its peers. For example, looking at the Plan Score by industry won’t always give you a good benchmark when you want to compare a small five-person CPA firm when the pool of plans you’re benchmarking by industry against including huge, multinational accounting firms with thousands of employees.

Our Benchmarking tool is the solution to getting the best benchmark possible for every kind of plan by allowing you to build your own set of criteria to benchmark against. We even provide an algorithmically defined peer group for many of the plans in the database, so you don’t have to make your own. It’s easy as saving a search using the criteria you want to benchmark against and pulling up the Benchmarking tool when you’re on the Plan Details page of the plan you want to benchmark. If you don’t have access to the Benchmarking tool in your version of Prospector, you can call (800) 231-0669, option 1 to speak with a sales representative to learn about upgrading to Retirement Plan Prospector+.

The applications of the Benchmarking feature are endless. You can define your peer group for a potential prospect to see how the plan currently stacks up against its peers, and you can use any weaknesses or shortcomings you find to build your talking points when you have your meeting with the prospect. You can even create a saved search for your own plans to use as a benchmark to either monitor their performance against the competition or use as a selling point to potential prospects by noting the strength of your plans’ average performance against their current plan performance.

The Benchmarking tool is just one of the many great features included in Retirement Plan Prospector+, and learning to use it effectively will be a massive boost to your prospecting efforts. If you need help with using any part of Prospector+, we have weekly training sessions available with our experts that you can sign up for, and you can call our support line at (800) 231-0669 from 9 am to 5 pm EST.

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4 Tips For Getting the Most of Exports
April 01, 2019

One of the main features that separates Retirement Plan Prospector and the American Directory of Group Insurance from basic 5500 lookup tools like FreeERISA and DOL’s E-FAST is the ability to create lists and export them to an Excel spreadsheet/ CSV format. This article will show you how to use the various features of the export feature in order to create spreadsheets for Mail Merge campaigns, Salesforce exports and more.

Setting Up Your Export

First, you’ll need to set up your export by performing a search to narrow down your results. If you don’t have any search filters set up and you go to export, you’ll be prompted to return to the Advanced Search page and set up filters before you can advance. The export limit for each account is 10,000 records per export, so make sure to limit your list to get under that 10,000 record limit. If your search has over 10,000 records, you can try adding more filters to get your list under 10,000. Some examples of filters you can add are: searching by a more restrictive geographic area like a smaller zip code radius, searching by specific plan types, or searching by plans with a range of participants.

Choosing Which Export to Use

After you’ve set up your search to capture the data you want to use, it’s time to pick your export format. We have a number of different options available for you to choose from, including Mailing List, Salesforce Friendly and Complete Dataset formats. Which export you’ll want to use depends on your use case. If you’re looking to set up a mailing campaign, you’ll probably want to use the Mailing List export to get all the information like address and contact information you’ll need to set up the campaign. If you’re looking to save new leads to your CRM, we have the Salesforce Friendly export that is automatically formatted to work perfectly with and can be configured to work with other CRM as well.

Custom Exports

Don’t see the right format in our prepared list of export formats? You can create your own custom export based on the information you want to see in your export. You can use one of our premade export formats as a base to get started or you can just choose the fields you want to include in your custom export one by one from a list. Once you’ve chosen those fields you want to export, you’ll save your export under a specific name so you can reuse it whenever you want. Your custom export will show up under the Standard Layout section on the Export page and you can run your custom export from there.

Running The Export

Once you’ve created your list and chosen your export layout, you’ll need to pick the file format. For our Standard Layouts, you’re able to export by Excel or CSV file format, and you can export by unique sponsors (shows one plan per sponsor) or every plan that shows up in your inital search. Once you’ve picked the format, click the link and your export will start. You can look at the bottom of the page for updates on the progress of the export. You’ll be notified of a completed export in two ways: you should see an exclamation point pop up on the Export tab in the database itself, and you’ll receive an email notifying you of your export’s completion.


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Searching by Plan Type vs Searching by Carrier Benefits All
March 04, 2019

If you’re a user of our American Directory of Group Insurance tool, you might be familiar with the Plan Type search, which allows you to search by the plan type codes listed on the Form 5500 (and if you’re not a user of the American Directory of Group Insurance, sign up for a free trial here). While this search is useful for finding basic plan types like Health, Dental, Vision, and etc., there are a number of plan types that aren’t included in this search filter that you might be missing out on. That’s where Carrier Benefits All comes in. We’re going to explore this underused search filter to show you where the data comes from and what the differences are, so that you can use this in your own group insurance lead generation.

Where The Data Comes From

The data that we use for the Plan Types search comes from section 8b on the main Form 5500. This section gives an overview of the basic plan types covered by the entire plan.


Sample Section 8b of the 5500

The data we use for the Carrier Benefits All search filter comes from the Schedule A itself, section 8 in Part III to be exact. This section has a much more expansive list of benefit types, and shows exactly what each policy covers.


Sample Section 8 of the Schedule A

Since Section 8 on the Schedule A covers more types of coverage, Carrier Benefits All is the search filter you’ll want to use if you’re looking to do more prospecting within a specific niche.

Plan Coverages Searchable in Carrier Benefits All, but Not in Plan Type

Prescription Drug:

Prescription drug insurance covers some or all of the costs of prescriptions for the participants in the plan. If you work for one of the many carriers and brokers who specialize in prescription drug coverage, the Carrier Benefits All search filter is just what you’re looking for.


Stop-Loss insurance provides protection against catastrophic or unpredictable losses, and is used by sponsors who self-fund their benefit plans but don’t want to take on all the liability for losses from the plan. If you work with self-funded plans, this type of search is available only through the Carrier Benefits All search filter.

HMO, PPO and POS plans:

If you specialize in working with specific plan network types, these searches are made for you. You can easily identify the plan networks by searching for companies that have HMO, PPO and/or POS contracts with a carrier.

Employee Assistance Program:

These programs were originally instituted to combat occupational alcoholism, but now work with employees to resolve many issues that affect productivity and satisfaction at work. Providers who operate in this space can go to this search to find all the companies who utilize EAPs and how much they’re being paid for the service.


This is just a small sample of the different plan types not covered by the basic Plan Type search in the 5500. If you’re looking for more niche areas of coverage, it might just be available in the Carrier Benefits All search option.

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Plan Scorecard: How to Measure a Retirement Plan’s Heath
January 28, 2019

One of the most useful features unique to Retirement Plan Prospector is our Plan Scorecard. The Scorecard allows our users to get a brief overview of the plan’s performance and the areas where there might be room for improvement. The Plan Scorecard also enables you to compare the quality of a plan to another plan quickly and accurately. The overall plan score is created by ranking all the plans nationwide by seven different categories. Once the companies are rated on a percentile scale against each other in the seven different categories, we combine the seven different metrics together into one score with a proprietary weighted formula. We’ll go over the seven different categories and how to use the Plan Score to find and win new business.

The 5 Types of Plan Scores

One of the first things you’ll notice when looking at the Plan Scorecard in Retirement Plan Prospector is that there are five different scores: an Overall or National Plan Score, a State Plan Score, an Industry Plan Score, an Asset Plan Score, and a Participant Plan Score. You can use the different types of Plan Score to see how a plan really stacks up compared to other plans from companies who share the same industry, same participant totals or asset size; in short, their actual peers and the companies they compete with for new business and new talent on a day to day basis.

Rate of Return

The first category listed on the Plan Scorecard is Rate of Return. We calculate this figure by looking at the growth of assets year over year, taking into account any participant contributions or withdrawals throughout the year. While the health of the market overall largely dictates the rate of return, consistent underperformance might suggest that the current advisor is not looking over the investment lineup very closely and adjusting the lineup to provide the best options for the plan’s participants, which you can use as a talking point if you find a plan with a low rate of return score.

Participation Rate

Participation Rate is the second category listed, and it is one of the more important categories on the plan scorecard. The participation rate is calculated by taking the number of active participants divided by the total number of eligible employees. Low participation rate impacts plan performance by capping the total amount of assets invested in the plan at a lower total, which could lead to issues with highly compensated individuals being unable to contribute up to the IRS maximum allowed. That, in turn, could lead to the plan having to issue corrective distributions to the highly compensated employees who go over the limit. Low participation rate can be an indicator of the current advisor not being able to properly educate the employees at the company on the value and importance of saving for retirement.

Participant Loans

Next up is Participant Loans as a Percentage of Assets. Taking loans out of your 401(k) is highly discouraged because of the impact it has on the growth of the participant’s account. The participant loses out on all the potential earnings on the account while paying back the loan on their 401(k) account. A low score on this category can be an indicator that the plan’s participants are not properly educated on the drawbacks of taking out the loans from their 401(k)

Participant Contributions

The next two categories are closely related: Average Participant Contributions and Percent Change in Participant Contributions. Average participant contributions are calculated by dividing the total participant contributions for the year by the number of participants in the plan. This category can be tricky to glean useful information from. Professional offices with low numbers of employees like doctors, dentists and accountants will have higher average contributions than a Fortune 500 company with employees all across the socioeconomic strata. Try looking at the participant total plan score or the industry plan score to get a better idea of how the plan stacks up against its peers. The change in average participant contributions is calculated by looking at the difference in contributions from the year before and the year that the score is calculated. Negative percentages can indicate a number of things from decreasing employer matches to distrust in the current advisor causing the participants to look for alternative investment options.

Employer Contributions

The last two categories are similar to the last section we covered, but Average Employer Contributions and Percent Change in Employer Contributions examines contributions from the employer side of the plan. The average employer contributions are calculated by dividing the employer contributions by the number of participants. A low score in this category could indicate a less generous employer match. A good 401(k) plan is key to attracting and retaining talented employees, so improving a low employer contribution score is very important to both the employer and the employees.


In addition to the categories mentioned, penalties have a sizable impact on the overall Plan Score. Some of these penalties include issuing or having a history of issuing corrective distributions, having insufficient fidelity bond coverage and more. Having these penalties show up on the Plan Scorecard indicates poor plan management, and gives you talking points to take into your meetings with prospective clients.


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Supplemental Attachments to the 5500
January 07, 2019

While the Form 5500 is an incredible treasure trove of useful and informative data, there’s a whole other level of information that sometimes gets overlooked when talking about the 5500. The schedule of assets and the supplemental attachments to the 5500 provide a ton of insight on the plan’s structure and administration. Unfortunately, the Schedule of Assets and supplemental attachments aren’t available for every 5500, as companies that file the 5500-SF are not required to disclose that information. We’re going to walk through a typical example of a Schedule of Assets and supplemental attachments to show you how you can use this information to your advantage.

Schedule of Assets:

While you will find the Schedule of Assets at the end of a filing, it’s actually a section on the Schedule H, the schedule that has financial information for the plan. The Schedule of Assets is a part of the Schedule H Line 4 compliance questions, which have many disclosures that a company might potentially need to fill out. The most common are for Line 4j, which is the Schedule of Reportable Transactions, which is required when a plan completes a transaction worth 5% or more of the plan year-end assets, and Line 4i, which is the Schedule of Assets Held at Plan Year. The Schedule of Assets is the most interesting for an investment advisor looking to learn more about a plan. You’ll get a full breakdown of all the investment vehicles the plan is invested in and the breakdown of assets invested in each separate fund. This allows you as an advisor to look at the fund lineup for a prospective client’s plan and plan your sales pitch accordingly while making you look confident and diligent in the process.

Supplemental Filings:

The supplemental filings are usually comprised of two different sections: the independent auditor’s report and the financial statements. Both can be very useful when looking for talking points when approaching new prospective clients.

Auditor’s Report:

Typically, the auditor’s report will come back with a favorable opinion or a determination that the auditor was not provided with enough information to make an opinion. That covers a majority of the audit reports, but it’s still worth skimming through to look for any language that implies errors or fraudulent activity. If there are any severe mistakes or fraudulent activity associated with the plan, the plan sponsor will be more keen on switching to a new provider.


Financial Statements and Notes to the Financial Statements:

The financial statements will contain a lot of the same information that the Schedule H has on assets and liabilities. The notes to the financial statement, however, are much more useful. There, you’ll have a document akin to a plan summary, where you can find out all the information on participation eligibility, employer match rates, investment strategy and more. Reading through that information will allow you to make recommendations on new plan strategy with the client and prepare a custom presentation tailored to the individual client.

Judy Diamond Associates has all of the attachments to the 5500 available in our Retirement Plan Prospector and American Directory of Group Insurance Plans. Once you’ve identified a plan you’re interested in prospecting through tools, you can get the extra data you need to go above and beyond and clinch the deal.

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The History of the Employee Retirement Income Savings Act (ERISA)
December 03, 2018

The Early Days of Pension Plans

Private pension plans had been around in various forms since the early 1890s, but first real regulation of pension plans came with the Revenue Acts of 1921, 1926, and 1928, which included three major provisions that helped define retirement plans as we know them today. These acts allowed corporations to deduct contributions made to pension plans from their reported income, and allowed pension funds to accumulate income tax-free, and deferred taxes on the participants until the pension was distributed. These benefits were accompanied by discrimination testing and financial audit requirements.

One of catalysts that led to the enactment of ERISA was the closure of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation car manufacturing plant in South Bend, IN in 1963. The pension had promised generous benefits for the participants, but the plan was severely underfunded and wasn’t able to cover the benefits for many of the employees vested in the plan. The failure of the Studebaker pension plan, along with a high profile conviction of infamous Teamsters boss James Hoffa on pension fraud, drew a lot of attention to pension plan corruption and mismanagement and spurred talk of reform and regulation in Washington, DC.

The Introduction of ERISA

It took ten years for ERISA to come to fruition after the Studebaker pension failure. Senator Vance Hartke of Indiana (not coincidentally the state where the Studebaker plant was located) was the first to propose new legislation in 1965 that would provide for pension insurance and create the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to collect the premiums from insured pension plans. The PBGC would pay out if a pension plan were to close and not have the funding to cover the amount owed to participants in the plan. Senator Jacob Javits was the architect of the main ERISA law, as he sponsored a number of different laws in the late 1960s that would later become key components of the final version of ERISA, with regulations touching on participation, vesting, funding, reporting, and disclosure rules for private pension plans.

Companies and labor unions both fought the passage of new regulations for pension plans, uneager to take on the challenge of more closely monitoring their pension offerings. Faced with the prospect of states enacting different sets of pension regulations that would have proved difficult for many companies who operated in multiple states to navigate, businesses warmed to the idea of national pension regulations. ERISA was passed by both houses of Congress by March 1974 and was ultimately signed into law in September 1974 by Gerald Ford.

“Who’s Who” and “What’s What”

The act gave regulating power to three agencies: the IRS, the PBGC and what is now known as the Employee Benefit Security Administration, or EBSA. As of the 2016 filing year, ERISA covers over 700,000 retirement plans and over 50 million active plan participants.

The Form 5500 was created by these three agencies to collect the disclosure information required by ERISA, and is the source of the vast majority of the data you’ll get from Judy Diamond Associates’ prospecting tools.

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