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New FRC Study: Advisors Wield Surprising Degree of Influence Over 529 College Savings Plans

Survey of Close to 300 Financial Advisors Focuses on Opportunities to Improve Sales

BOSTON, Feb. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report by FRC, a division of Strategic Insight, reveals that financial advisors may help boost sales of 529 plans far more than plan assets and net sales suggest. The survey of close to 300 financial advisors indicates that 84% of RIAs and 60% of financial advisors and dual-registered advisors recommend direct-sold plans.

"This is especially important intelligence for product providers and primary distributors who often underestimate the extent to which advisors influence client decisions of both advisor-sold and direct-sold plans," said Paul Curley, Director of FRC's college savings plan research practice. He added, "Although this may sound counterintuitive to 529 providers, increased engagement with advisors could strongly enhance the growth of both types of 529 plans."

The study, FRC's seventh since 2002, is titled 529 Financial Advisor Support, Selection and Distribution Preferences.

Survey respondents' topmost reasons for recommending direct-sold plans are lower fees, in-state tax incentives and efficiency. Of the 37% of advisors surveyed who never recommend direct-sold plans, 44% reported a lack of commission or trails as a reason and 34% claimed that advisor-sold plans tend to have a better selection of investment options. Advisors also listed a host of improvements that they say would increase asset flows into all types of 529 college savings plans: more streamlined paperwork, an increase in the number of investment reallocations per year, an expanded list of "qualified" higher education expenses, a reduction in state fees and more automatic payroll deduction plans for college savings through employers.

The 2012 edition of FRC's college savings plans report focuses on how program managers and other members of the 529 industry can increase plan sales through financial advisors. Curley notes that the report contains useful information and strategies for program managers, state agencies and treasury departments, primary distributors, product providers and broker/dealers. Bolstered by 44 exhibits, the report's five main sections include an overview of college savings market trends, product, distribution and support preferences, and strategic recommendations for the various 529 industry constituencies.

The survey respondents represented advisors spanning all types of distribution channels, compensation models, tenure ranks, asset levels and regions within the U.S. According to Curley, "This is, by far, the most comprehensive and in-depth report of its kind in the 529 industry."

About FRC
FRC is a research firm that has focused on the investment and asset management industry for more than 25 years. The company, which is a division of Strategic Insight, provides investment professionals with unique and compelling data and analysis of industry trends and financial product performance.

FRC's research studies and analysis, along with access to its analysts and subject matter experts, help executives and senior management to make better product, strategy and distribution decisions. One of the greatest values FRC provides its clients is an independent and unbiased view of the current competitive landscape and an assessment of future market opportunities.

About Asset International
Asset International is a privately-held provider of information and technology to global pension funds, asset managers, financial advisers, banking service providers, and other financial institutions in the private and public sector. Its industry-leading brands include Strategic Insight, SIMFUND, FRC, PLANSPONSOR, PLANADVISER, aiCIO, Global Custodian, and The Trade. The company has offices in New York, Boston, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne and Stamford, CT. For additional information please contact Jason Cassidy at [email protected] (+1.212.584.5739).

SOURCE Asset International

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