MetLife Inc.s General American Life Insurance Co. has formed a unit to help financial advisers market retirement plans for highly paid executives based on its Executive Benefits VUL 2000 variable universal life insurance policy.
The new unit, Executive Benefits Advisors, will also provide plan design and development, case support, and support staff for these nonqualified deferred compensation plans.
Such plans permit retirement savings in excess of what such basic plans as 401(k)s allow. There are no limits to how much a participant can put in an account, and employers frequently match funds at the same rate as they do for a 401(k).
Most of the people who set up nonqualified deferred compensation plans are independent advisers affiliated with boutique firms.
Wayne Malone, executive director of executive benefits services for GenAmerica Financial Corp., General American Lifes immediate parent, said Executive Benefits Advisors is geared to assist advisers who are experts in this market.
General American, which is based in St. Louis, works with about 65 businesses nationwide, and most of its competitors work with a similar number, Mr. Malone said.
Avery E. Neumark, a lawyer and accountant specializing in nonqualified deferred compensation plans, said few banks are active in setting up them up.
Trust departments at brokerage firms are doing a fair amount of business said Mr. Neumark, who works for the New York law firm of Rosen & Reade LLP. As for banks, periodically, well talk to them about rabbi trusts a type of employer-established trust that protects an employees nonqualified benefits against risk factors associated with business activities he said.
Don Lindner, senior vice president of Charon ECA Inc., a Phoenix brokerage firm that designs and implements nonqualified benefits programs, doubts banks will ever get involved in them.
There isnt the same volume that you see in other investment or insurance lines, Mr. Lindner said. Thats why most of the nonqualified business is handled by boutique firms.
Also, its so specialized, so technical in nature, that it would take a significant investment to buy expertise, he said. We have relationships with banks, and because of that occasionally theyll refer someone to us, but thats about it.
Dan Rigby, managing director at Charon ECA, said the two most popular nonqualified product designs are deferred plans and supplemental executive retirement plans. The latter, often referred to as SERPs, pay benefits out of the employers general assets.
General Americans Executive Benefits VUL 2000 variable life policy can be used in both types of plan.