4 Simple Steps to Help Understand the Transition to a New 401(k) Recordkeeper

Insight By
Mike Iley
Retirement Plans
Learn what to expect when changing recordkeepers to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Transitioning to a new 401(k) recordkeeper shouldn’t be a taxing experience. We’re going to review, step-by-step, the events that occur during a recordkeeper transition. With our clients, we have found that when they are adequately prepared for the events ahead, everyone experiences a smooth transition.  

Step 1 | Recognition  

Congratulations! Recognizing the need for change is the first step toward finding a solution. In this case, you have decided to move to a new retirement plan recordkeeper. Chances are, you have evaluated a few different options, and based on your plan’s needs, you selected the best one.  

To officially begin the relationship, your new recordkeeper will request new business paperwork. That typically involves:

  • Retirement plan contract
  • New investment selections
  • QDIA option
  • Safe Harbor IRA provider (if applicable)
  • TPA coordination (plan documents, amendments, valuations, Form 5500, and/or additional documents)

Those are the initial documents needed to move forward and begin the transition process.

Step 2 | Review  

Once all the documents are received, your recordkeeper relationship manager will review them and confirm that the information is in good order. Typically, this process takes a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on how quickly the documents are received and reviewed.  

Keep in mind that this is an opportune time to make changes to your current retirement plan. For example, if you have been thinking about auto-enrollment, auto-escalation, plan design changes, force-out provisions, or other adjustments, now is the ideal time to discuss them and update your plan prior to implementation.  

Step 3 | Setup  

Four essential functions are going on during this time:

  1. Payroll. The new recordkeeper will walk your team through the uploading and submitting of payroll. If not already provided, they will likely ask for a company census to assist with the initial upload.
  1. Transfer of assets. By now, your former recordkeeper has been informed that your plan is moving to a new recordkeeper. The formal process begins by sending a Liquidation Request letter to your former recordkeeper. Most recordkeepers have a department that specializes in transfers. Your new department will work together with your old one to coordinate the transfer of assets. Then, the next step is to distribute a Blackout Notice to your employees, which notifies them that for a window of time (usually between 3 – 10 days), they will not be able to make any changes to their retirement plan account. This is when the entire plan’s assets are in motion (meaning being transferred).  
  1. Account openings. Your participants' accounts are opened on the new recordkeeper’s system. These accounts are not funded at this time because the assets are in transit. Once the assets are transferred, your participants will see the same accrued account balances.
  1. Enrollment meetings. Let’s get excited: it’s time to enroll and educate your employees about the new recordkeeper and the opportunity to share details of any new capabilities. These may include online tools, financial wellness resources, income projections, and more. Depending upon how the plan is set up and potential enhancements to design features, meetings are a way to inform employees about how you are helping them on their savings journey toward retirement.

Reminder: Don’t forget about former participants. They are still active members of the plan and must be informed of changes.  

Step 4 | Completion

The plan conversion is nearly complete. The last steps include transferring assets, followed by confirming that everything has been successfully transferred and allocated into the correct participant accounts. The final stage effectively ends the Blackout Notice period, meaning your plan participants can view their account balances and make investment changes.  

Going forward, all new payroll uploads will happen on the new recordkeeper’s platform, and your dedicated relationship manager will be available for questions, comments, and ongoing support.  

In This Together

For our clients, we aim to provide clarity and consistent communication throughout the recordkeeper conversion process. We realize this is outside the normal course of business, which is why we are here to guide you step-by-step through the process. Changing retirement plan recordkeepers can be stressful, but we have found that when our clients are prepared beforehand, the process is much more effective, making the conversion a win-win for you, your business, and your employees.  

Insight By
Mike Iley
Managing Director
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Retirement Plans
Published on

November 16, 2022

updated on

November 16, 2022


This article is for educational purposes only. The tax and legal references attached herein are designed to provide accurate and authoritative information with regard to the subject matter covered and are provided with the understanding that LoVasco Consulting Group is not engaged in rendering tax or legal services. If tax or legal advice is required, you should consult your accountant or attorney. LoVasco Consulting Group does not replace those advisors.

Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through M Holdings Securities, Inc., a registered broker dealer and Investment Advisor, member FINRA / SIPC. LoVasco Consulting Group is independently owned and operated.

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