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Hancock Offers Complete 401(k) Adviser Program

John Hancock Financial Network already serves 2,000 financial advisers and independent broker-dealers who do business with 401(k) plans across the United States, to date, John Hancock's 401(k) support has been limited to access to asset managers. Further, John Hancock never branded its name on its defined contribution platform, instead allowing advisers to use their own.

John Hancock Financial Network now wants to change all that. In fact, the firm wants the retirement plan advisers it supports to think of its name as synonymous with 401(k) offerings.

The firm has created a broad 401(k) adviser platform, called the John Hancock Financial Network Defined Contribution Consulting Program, that it hopes will appeal to a wide spectrum of advisers and help them build out their "several billion" in 401(k) assets under management custodied with John Hancock to significantly more.

"We want to become one of the premier destinations for retirement plan-focused advisers," said Bruce Harrington, head of retirement sales and strategy for John Hancock Financial Network. "We anticipate double-digit growth in assets under management."

Harrington, who joined John Hancock a year ago to develop its defined contribution custodial business, is a well-known 401(k) veteran who held senior DC roles at MFS Investment Management, Putnam Investments and LPL Financial. Harrington is supported by two dedicated, "product agnostic" defined contribution sales consultants, a new position at the firm. This team provides advisers with prospecting ideas, case consultation and information on industry best practices.

In addition, Harrington noted, Peter Gordon, the president of John Hancock Financial Network, has a background and commitment to 401(k) sales. Prior to taking on his current role in 2006, Gordon was senior vice president of sales and marketing for John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, John Hancock's own retirement plan product and services offering, geared for small and mid-sized businesses.

John Hancock Financial believes its enhanced 401(k) platform is unique in that it is tailored for advisers with varying levels of expertise and commitment to the 401(k) market and that it is based on recent, in-depth research on the expectations and needs of 401(k) advisers, Harrington said.

The biggest differential of John Hancock's new 401(k) adviser platform, Harrington said, is the training that John Hancock now offers, both in person and online, for those advisers who do only a small percentage of their work in the DC space, those at the mid-tier level who do 25% of their business in DC plans, and those who offer comprehensive DC work and need to qualify as fiduciaries.

In April, for instance, John Hancock held a "401(k) Boot Camp" in Boston that 30 advisers attended. Aimed at those advisers who do only occasional 401(k) work, the seminar covered regulatory issues, practice management guidance and information on John Hancock's Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) program. John Hancock plans to hold a second 401(k) seminar for 401(k) advisers at the mid-tier level in September, again in Boston.

For those advisers with more 401(k) experience, John Hancock offered a more comprehensive, in-depth seminar in mid June in Chicago, which 75 advisers attended.

In addition to these in-person seminars, John Hancock offers a series of online modules and tools based on materials from Retirement Plan Advisory Group (RPAG), a defined contribution consultancy that educates advisers on 401(k) requests for proposals, benchmarking, due diligence scorecards, best practices, marketing and fund selection.

John Hancock will continue to promote these seminars and online tools through webinars, conference calls and e-mail marketing efforts.

"Our 401(k) platform is now a complete, top-down strategy," Harrington said. "It's like going from offering instant coffee to having a full array of choices at Starbucks. I am thrilled with the tremendous feedback we have received from our seminars already. Advisers are telling us they like the content, the ability to network with their peers and to learn more."

"Our new defined contribution consulting program is a great example of how John Hancock Financial Network strives to serve its clients by providing the best tools and resources to its financial advisers," added Chris Maryanopolis, president of Signator Investors, the broker-dealer arm of John Hancock Financial Network. "Our experts carefully developed this program to assist JHFN's diverse group of financial advisers so that they can continue to service the retirement plan market and help clients select retirement plan options that fit their needs."

So what research did John Hancock undertake to develop its new 401(k) advisor platform?

In the first quarter of 2011, John Hancock commissioned Pulse Logic to survey 220 retirement plan advisers on their perceptions of the industry, upcoming regulatory changes, resources they find helpful and the future of the business.