Vendor Search

Vendor Search for 401(k), 403(b), and Governmental 457 Plans

The key to a successful record-keeping relationship is finding the perfect balance between services offered, investments, participant and plan sponsor experiences, and price. Few plan sponsors have the desire or resources to undertake a defined contribution Request for Proposal (RFP) project in-house. NEPC has the tools and experience to sift through the data from providers and correlate the various proposals (and resulting fees) to each client’s “personality” and value system.

NEPC’s vendor search / plan administration consulting services are provided by a focused and experienced group of individuals who are dedicated to the project throughout the entire engagement. Each assignment is customized to the wants and needs of the particular sponsor and program, and our process allows us to maintain consistent standards while consulting around the individual nuances and circumstances of that particular program. Each project is treated as if it were our only project, and as we do with our retainer relationships, we manage to client expectations rather than to a budget or a time clock.

In its simplest form, a vendor search is all about asking questions and gathering information. NEPC maintains a comprehensive proprietary database of plan administration providers. Our database contains more than 900 questions and responses from 24 defined contribution providers. We have taken the position that it is better to ask more, targeted questions to drill into the minute details of plan administration when preparing an RFP than to ask fewer broad-based, open ended questions. This structured line of questioning requires specific responses and minimizes or removes any subjectivity on the part of the reviewer when rating the quality of the response.

NEPC’s customized Request for Proposal includes 12 categories of questions: Organization, Systems, Conversion, Client Service, Administration, Compliance, Communications & Education, The Participant Experience, Administration of Investments, Trustee Services, Plan Costs, and Performance Guarantees. Additional categories are included if Non-Qualified and/or Pension Plans are included in the search. The NEPC Vendor Search Process


  • Documentation of plan provisions
  • Learning about the company including its culture and business philosophy
  • Establishment of goals and objectives for the search
  • Understanding the internal administrative processes and procedures
  • Identifying appropriate vendors for the search
  • Development of a customized Request for Proposal (RFP)
  • Distribution of the RFP to selected candidate firms


  • Analyzing and scoring of the provider responses
  • Preparation of an investment review
  • Summarization of fees (cost of administration and investment fees)


  • Reviewing the analysis and documentation with the selection committee
  • Facilitating finalist presentations
  • Conducting site visits, if appropriate
  • Checking references
  • Negotiating “best and final” contract provisions, performance guarantees, and fees
  • Notifying candidates of the project outcomes

NEPC’s processes are such that we can take on all responsibilities to minimize your involvement or allow as much interaction as you wish. There are no additional fees should you want to be hands-on or hands-off throughout the process.

Much has changed in plan administration over the past 25 years, and a vendor search can help committees learn about the ever-changing provider marketplace. Part of a plan fiduciary’s responsibilities is to determine the reasonableness of fees given the value of services provided, and a vendor search can assist with fee negotiations, particularly when committees are satisfied with services.

NEPC understands and appreciates that plan sponsors have different needs, goals and objectives, approaches to satisfying their fiduciary requirements, and budgets. To that end, we can provide an array of projects from satisfying basic needs and budgets to full scale compliance as described above.

To learn more about NEPC’s vendor search capabilities, contact us at 617.374.1300.

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