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Asset Based Fees

Revenue sharing is on the decline, as it should be.

The use of revenue sharing in retirement plans is on the decline, and this is a good thing. Plan sponsor surveys by both Callan and the Plan Sponsor Council of America highlight the decline in use of revenue sharing from over 21% of plans to about 15% in 2019. However, revenue sharing still runs rampant in smaller 401(k)s, and among 403(b) plans. Revenue sharing is an additional cost, tacked onto the expense ratio of a mutual fund or insurance product to pay for (typically) either the advisor’s services (aka 12(b)(1)s) and/or recordkeeping services (sub TAs). It ranges between 5 and 75 basis points and basically represents indirect and sub-surface payments from one service provider to another. The model is fraught with problems. For example: Uneven revenue sharing among different funds in a given plan means that some participants are paying more (in the form of a higher expense ratio) than others for the same service. Poorly disclosed revenue sharing leaves participants and many plan sponsors in the dark about what they’re paying. Indeed as many as 30% of plan sponsors admitted to not knowing if revenue share agreements were in force. Given all the recent fee litigation, sponsors should want to know, and advisors should