ProManage pushes deeper into Twin Cities financial advice market

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Tony Sabos, left, Stewart Rallis, Jamie Jackson and Carl Londe are guiding ProManage’s expansion in the Twin Cities in partnership with Stairway Partners. Their focus is the reluctant investor.

Photo: JOEL KOYAMA , Star Tribune

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Financial advisers can have the affluent.

ProManage LLC likes reluctant investors, people who could get active with their own 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plans but, for whatever reason, just can’t or don’t want to.

It’s like Jiffy Lube, ProManage ­executives like to say: Sure you can change your own oil, but …

The Chicago-based registered investment adviser announced recently that it is looking to expand in the Twin Cities with its managed account services for employers with defined contribution plans. ProManage directs accounts and makes all the investment decisions for workers. Other players in the space include BeManaged, Financial Engines and Morningstar, which offers Morningstar Retirement Manager.

ProManage CEO Carl Londe estimates that about 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer some type of managed account as an alternative for reluctant investors, not including target-date funds. Target-date funds, a popular approach to reaching passive investors, are a major competitor, he said. Target-date funds consider the retirement age, or “target date,’’ of an investor and choose investment portfolios that get more conservative as the target date approaches.

“What we do is sort of that on ­steroids,” said ProManage President Tony Sabos.

It is a growing area, said Robert Benish, executive director of the Plan Sponsor Council of America, a Chicago-based association for employers with defined contribution plans.

“We’re all so busy,” Benish said. “More people are interested in watching curling than looking at their portfolio.”

ProManage isn’t exactly new to the Twin Cities. Nearly half of the $1.7 billion in assets ProManage manages are in the Minneapolis area with three clients, including Allina Health with whom it’s had a long ­relationship.

ProManage is partnering with its subadviser, Stairway Partners, a registered investment adviser based in Oakbrook, Ill., that just opened a new office at 50th and France in Edina. ProManage will work out of Stairway’s office to connect with plan sponsors.

ProManage uses basic information to customize portfolios for individual investors based on a number of factors such as whether the person owns a house, and how much they are currently saving, without requiring much effort from the employee. Because its model takes such things into account, ProManage doesn’t necessarily move to more conservative fixed-income investments over time the way target date funds do.

Reluctant investors typically have smaller account balances, under $50,000 or so, according to ProManage.

The service costs employers nothing. Individuals pay a fee that depends on how much ProManage manages for the individual’s employer altogether. At the low end of that scale, a $10,000 balance might cost about $7.50 a year.

Laurence Kotlikoff, an ­economist at Boston University focused on personal finance, said he has concerns that such investment services might not provide enough transparency. Employers have to carefully vet and monitor such advisers, he said.

Jack VanDerhei, director of research and co-director of the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s Center for Research on Retirement Income said he’s not familiar with ProManage, but said the amount of information collected on an individual investor is important: “A little information may be dangerous when a full vector of information is needed to get the correct answer.”

 

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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