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I was just advised by my client that, per his broker (that I have done business with for years) he is changing plan investments from American Funds to Vanguard.

Apparently, the only way Vanguard will accept new business is to insist they handle the plan administration through a party they contract out with, Ascensus.

This is an excellent client, pays his bills on time, no problems with the plan.  I'm sure he did not know any of this.

My client just sent over the standard form letter informing me of this.

We all lose a client now and then, but to find out from the client who advised us of this and not the fellow I have been doing business with for years I find highly unethical.

Possibly good for the client, until he discovers what Ascensus charges for the administration of the plan.

Perhaps this is just "sour grapes" on my part and my only recourse would be not to do any more business with the broker.


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I too have a client at Vanguard.  The investment advisor requested 2 quotes -- one for fully bundled (with Ascensus) and one on their TPA platform that allows us to draft the document, do the compliance testing, prepare Forms 5500, etc.  Even though the combination of our fee with the unbundled program was larger than the bundled program, the client recognized the advantage of having us on the team.

Good luck!


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Bill Presson, thanks, but may be too late, I received the form letter on my client's letterhead informing me that my services were no longer needed.

Ascensus even screwed up that letter, the client apparently never read it, they are asking me to assist in the transition from Hancock, although the funds are with American Funds.  Kinda sloppy.

Since I am not a record keeper, I have no intention of aiding in the transition, unless absolutely necessary.

Will let you know if it is too far in the game to do anything.

Never great thing to lose a fantastic client; especially after 10 years.  I could understand if I "messed up".

I've been in business 35 years, am not a "newby" and see this all the time.  Not bragging, but generally I lose only the clients I need to, generally by 3x my fee so they think it is their idea to leave me.

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I had the same thing happen with a client I had for over 30 years.  He had a PSP (all in CDs) and I discussed and illustrated the benefit of adding a 401(k) feature to the Plan.  No real interest.  A year later he informs me he started a 401(k) with Ascensus.  They had no idea he had a PSP and even numbered their Plan 001.  The relationship was too long to not help Band-aid up the the mess and wish him well.  I billed him for every minute of work.  He paid and offered me use of his Maui condo for two weeks, which I gratefully accepted.  He was used to having me as "the guy".  You have no "guy" at Ascensus.  Just and account number and a phone tree.  I helped with the transition for another year+. 

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As I recall Ascensus has a pretty long timeline for conversions.  I recall jumping in (at the client’s behest, after discussing bundled vs. unbundled with the client) when one of my clients was sold on the bundled package and was successful in changing the conversion to the unbundled platform and retaining the client.

If you’ve been working with this advisor for some time, maybe educate them (again) about the benefits of working with you as TPA and availability of the unbundled option at Ascensus.

Makes me grateful to be retired …

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Bill Presson et al are correct.  This package is easily accessed as unbundled.  We (TPA) used to call it "Vanguard Newport" because Newport Group ran the investment admin that Vanguard did not (smaller plans than Vanguard will bundle).  Ascensus bought Newport Group in 2022, hence the use of "Ascensus" to reference this package. 

Ascensus also has a bundled package (so more confusion) and a large (by acquisition) TPA organization named "FuturePlan."  I work for FuturePlan as a 403(b) SME and Documents person.   The firm I worked for (before Ascensus bought us) lost a very nice 403(b) plan to Ascensus bundled (nothing to do with Vanguard or Newport).  We complained to the advisor who organized this and he responded that "it is all Ascensus anyway."  This is not, of course, the way this actually works and I suspect he thought he brought a lower cost alternative to his client's attention.  The plan sponsor/ client has been back to us several times for advice and help with their 457(b) plan, but has not thought "unbundling" would be worth entertaining at this point in time.

I am not sure this helps "thepensionmaven," but information is often useful.  If you have other clients with Vanguard (Newport, etc), it would be a good idea to discuss this and pre-empt a change which, I agree will focus mostly on cost and not service.


Patricia Neal Jensen, JD

Vice President and Nonprofit Practice Leader

|Future Plan, an Ascensus Company

21031 Ventura Blvd., 12th Floor

Woodland Hills, CA 91364

E patricia.jensen@futureplan.com

P 949-325-6727

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