You might be amazed just how many employers do not understand all of the cast of characters who service their 403(b) or 401(k) plans. I get routinely asked the following:
· How is a trustee different from a custodian?
· Is it the trustee or the custodian who holds the plan assets?
· Aren’t the record keeper and third party administrator one and the same?
· Must I hire both?
· Which of them will help to explain a failed discrimination test?
· Does having an advisor to the plan mean the company is no longer a fiduciary?
If you are an employer who needs this clarification, just ask those who are service providers to your plan. An ERISA attorney like myself can explain these distinctions, but you can ask your plan advisor (this is usually free of charge and just part of the service the plan advisor provides) to help you understand the different roles and responsibilities. Remember that ERISA requires prudence in selecting your service providers; thus it's best to understand what role each provider plays.