Highlights of the NAPA 401(k) SUMMIT – Nashville TN, April 15–17

  • April 25, 2018

Phil Plageman

The National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA) pulled off yet another impressive annual NAPA 401(k) SUMMIT in Nashville this past April 15 through 17. The conference, which focused on practice management and business development for Plan Advisors, attracted about 1,100 plan advisors and an additional 1,000 vendor and home office attendees at the Nashville Music City Center.

Energy, Lots of Energy!

This was our first impression. On our way from the hotel to the convention center, we walked by the Bridgestone Arena, home to the Nashville Predators NHL team, during a playoff game. Boy did the arena rock! Even from the outside – you knew there was a jazzed-up crowd in there – much like the NAPA Conference. At NAPA, there were many dedicated people inside with lots of energy learning how to improve their retirement plan practices, not to mention having lots of fun at the SUMMIT After Dark.

Top Impressions

401(k)s Are Not on a “Benefit” Island

The convergence of critical benefit trends – HSAs, financial wellness and becoming a benefits broker – were all important themes. The impact of such trends changes the conversation about retirement and moves some of the spotlight away from the 401(k). Some speakers feel that the HSAs, in particular, have enormous potential – similar to the 401(k) in the early eighties – given their triple tax benefit and the ability to make investment selections. Considering that some of the HSA sessions were standing room only, it is clear that many advisors agree. And more and more, the plan advisor needs to be ready to talk about participant retirement needs in a more holistic way. UtopiaAdvisor™ helps you take deeper dives into the data to understand trends and identify gaps. Whether you are at the office, or on the road with your client, our mobile friendly software will be right there with you. And once you have identified gaps, you can determine action and enact solutions.

Fiduciary Regulation, the New Normal

These two topics were the focus of the majority of presentations. NAPA did a nice job in bringing together experts on improving the bottom line, cybersecurity, marketing messaging to diverse demographic groups, and many valuable business development techniques. The highlight, in my opinion, was the talk “Modernizing Your Sales Approach” by Ian Altman. Altman’s premise boils down to focusing your messaging on solutions for the prospect’s elevator “rant” about their problems. Avoid talking about product, instead talk about solutions to your customers’ problems.

Fun Outtakes

A baby kangaroo in the exhibit hall, watching brave souls try their mettle on the mechanical bull at the Wildhorse Saloon, and of course, yours truly the Plan Health Doctors, Mike Zimmer, Fluent Technologies’ President, and I.

What Would Make the Conference Even Better?

A very important topic is improving advisor efficiency, by integrating advisor’s tools and the data they need. A lot of the challenges that advisors face in servicing plan sponsors and participants well center on getting and using data, and then improving practice efficiencies around deploying that data for better measurement of participant outcomes. This would be a worthy focus of a future conference.

NAPA did a great job and we look forward to next year’s conference in Las Vegas, April 7–9.

Learn more about Fluent Technologies and UtopiaAdvisor™. Visit

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