Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley at Work Study Finds Plan Advisors Integral to Retirement Plan Participation and Outcomes

May 25, 2022

Inaugural workplace retirement study highlights plan sponsor views on the benefits of a plan advisor managing their workplace retirement plan

New York —

Morgan Stanley at Work today released new research from its inaugural workplace retirement study that shows plan sponsors see a positive impact and value in having a plan advisor oversee their workplace retirement plan to boost retirement plan participation and outcomes.

Based on survey results, plan sponsors cite peace of mind as a leading benefit when it comes to having plan advisors drive employee engagement and investment guidance—which eases internal concerns, adds value to the participant experience and decreases the pressure of administrative tasks. In addition, while investment management is cited as the number one reason plan sponsors consider advisory services, they also view relationship building—including accessibility, responsiveness and consistency—as key in growing corporate retirement plans.

Among the report’s key findings, plan sponsors believe retirement plan advisors:

  • Boost retirement outcomes: Eighty-seven percent of plan sponsors reported that offering access to a plan advisor with a workplace retirement plan delivers better retirement plan outcomes.
  • Have increased participation rates: Nearly 45% of plan sponsors with a plan advisor noted that 75–100% of eligible employees are enrolled in their company’s 401(k) versus only 33% of plan sponsors without a plan advisor.
  • Deliver investment oversight: The top reason plan sponsors cite working with a plan advisor is to provide oversight of investment management, with 28% of the population selecting that choice.
  • Provide more choice: An overwhelming number of plan sponsors (88%) agree that a plan advisor offers robust plan features with a range of investment options. In addition, respondents stated plans with an advisor tend to offer added features like automatic match, match options and auto enrollment that help better engage participants and increase retirement savings.
  • Deliver ROI: 95% of plan sponsor respondents said the fees associated with a plan advisor is well worth the cost given the investment management (28%), fiduciary guidelines (67%) and compliance (75%) considerations.

“As a fiduciary of their workplace retirement benefits, plan advisors can play a central and critical role in helping employees reach their long-term investment and retirement goals, while helping employers attract and retain top talent,” said Anthony Bunnell, Head of Retirement for Morgan Stanley at Work. “Financial Advisors are an often-overlooked resource that can enhance and support the work plan sponsors do, while forging long-term, valuable relationships with their most mission-critical talent.”

Morgan Stanley at Work’s Value of the Financial Advisor study can be found here.

Methodology: The findings in the 2022 Value of the Financial Advisor report are based on proprietary, third-party research and survey data conducted by Rebel & Co. of 350 plan sponsors at companies with 20-3,000 employees that offer financial benefits including a 401(k) plan across various industries in the U.S. These companies have either a dedicated Financial Advisor with their 401(k) plan, has worked with an employer in the last 12 months that offered a 401(k) plan or currently involved in selecting or managing the company 401(k) plan. Respondents were interviewed via phone or using an online panel survey from February 7 – February 28, 2022.

Morgan Stanley at Work’s Retirement Solutions offers a flexible, multi-provider recordkeeper platform designed to meet the individual needs of companies. In addition to providing customized retirement solutions, Morgan Stanley at Work has dedicated retirement specialists that understand the challenges businesses face and offer support and service for their employees. Through a consultative process, the Firm’s specialists help companies improve plan competitiveness and fiduciary risk management, investment selection and monitoring, and employee retirement readiness.

Retirement Solutions is part of the Morgan Stanley at Work suite of financial solutions, which spans Equity Compensation through Shareworks and Equity Edge Online®, Retirement and Financial Wellness Solutions. Morgan Stanley at Work and Morgan Stanley’s intellectual capital and financial education delivered through multiple channels to enable employees to build a holistic plan to help them achieve their financial goals. Shareworks is provided by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, member SIPC, and its affiliates, and Equity Edge Online® employee stock plan solutions are offered by E*TRADE Financial Corporate Services, Inc., both are parts of Morgan Stanley at Work and all wholly owned subsidiaries of Morgan Stanley.

About Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management is a leading financial services firm that provides access to a wide range of products and services to individuals, businesses, and institutions, including brokerage and investment advisory services, financial and wealth planning, cash management and lending products and services, annuities and insurance, retirement, and trust services.

About Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) is a leading global financial services firm providing a wide range of investment banking, securities, wealth management and investment management services. With offices in 41 countries, the Firm’s employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions and individuals. For further information about Morgan Stanley, please visit

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not provide individually tailored investment advice. It has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. The strategies and/or investments discussed in this material may not be appropriate for all investors. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies and encourages investors to seek the advice of a Financial Advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC is not implying an affiliation, sponsorship, endorsement with/of the third party or that any monitoring is being done by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”) of any information contained within the website. Morgan Stanley is not responsible for the information contained on the third party website or the use of or inability to use such site. Nor do we guarantee their accuracy or completeness.

When Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors (collectively, “Morgan Stanley”) provide “investment advice” regarding a retirement or welfare benefit plan account, an individual retirement account or a Coverdell education savings account (“Retirement Account”), Morgan Stanley is a “fiduciary” as those terms are defined under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”), and/or the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the “Code”), as applicable. When Morgan Stanley provides investment education, takes orders on an unsolicited basis or otherwise does not provide “investment advice”, Morgan Stanley will not be considered a “fiduciary” under ERISA and/or the Code. For more information regarding Morgan Stanley’s role with respect to a Retirement Account, please visit Tax laws are complex and subject to change. Morgan Stanley does not provide tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to consult their tax and legal advisors (a) before establishing a Retirement Account, and (b) regarding any potential tax, ERISA and related consequences of any investments or other transactions made with respect to a Retirement Account.

Morgan Stanley at Work and Shareworks services are provided by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, member SIPC, and its affiliates, all wholly owned subsidiaries of Morgan Stanley.

2022 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC.

Referenced Data

Do you agree having a dedicated financial advisor supports your company's 401(k) benefit?


Is worth the cost


Provides peace of mind when it comes to regulatory concerns


Provides support in working with the recordkeeper and/or third-party administrator


Provides support in addressing employees plan questions


Provides peace of mind to board/company leadership during critical business finance decisions


Provides peace of mind for plan design as the company scales


Provides financial education and tools to employees


Delivers better plan outcomes for our company


Encourages eligible employee participation


Provides peace of mind when it comes to participants data security


Results in more employees on-track for retirement


Is a benefit that helps attract and retain top talent


Employee Participation

 Currently has a financial advisor

 Currently does not have
a financial advisor




Are your eligible employees on track for retirement readiness?

 Currently has a financial advisor

 Currently does not have a
financial advisor

Yes, all or most eligible employees are on-track




What was the primary reason for offering access to a
dedicated financial advisor with the company's 401(k) benefit plan?

Oversight to investment management


Resources to employees


Plan design as company grows


Administrative support


Fiduciary responsibilities


Personal connection of CEO


Working with my plan before my employment




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