Ten of the Top 401(k) Third Party Administrators Reviewed

June 24, 2022 By Richard Poulson

This post was originally published January 19, 2016 and extensively updated June 24, 2022.

Any company that offers its employees a 401(k) retirement plan needs to take care of administering the plan, making sure to meet all legal requirements related to the management of plan funds. Plan administrator duties include educating plan participants about the plan and enrolling them in it, investing funds, and preparing tax forms.

As a top Utah accounting firm and third party administrator of retirement plans, we want to provide a useful resource with a list of the top third party administrators 401(k) in locations outside of the Salt Lake City area. But before we do that, let’s quickly explore what a third party administrator is.

Ten Of The Top TPA Service Providers - 1-1

What is a Third Party Administrator for a 401(K)?

TPAs, or Third Party Administrators, help employers manage 401(k) plans and other employee retirement plans. A retirement plan TPA like Cook Martin Poulson will collaborate with you on the design and administration of your employee retirement plan and help you fulfill your tax obligations as the employer while identifying potential tax benefits.

An experienced plan administrator will take over administration tasks including vetting your plan, annual compliance testing, managing employee contributions and employer contributions, discrimination testing, and preparation of tax forms and other legal documents. It is their job to keep the plan in compliance while managing day-to-day plan operations.

401(k) administration has complex rules, including cross-checking eligibility requirements, meeting all disclosure requirements, and understanding clients' tax liability. Administrators should also conduct an annual plan audit.

How We Chose the Top 10 TPAs

Your employees and business are unique, and you should find a TPA 401(k) provider that fits your uniqueness. When putting together our third party administrator rankings, we’ve included providers who strive for the same excellence we do.

The best third party administrator for your company may not be local. Our list includes TPAs from all over the country. Even if you’re not in Utah, you can find the best third party administrator for your company’s 401(k) plan for your business. It's also worth noting that some TPA 401(k) providers will administer individual plans as well as group plans.

Without further ado, here is our list of the top 10 TPAs to consider.

Our Top 10 401(k) Third Party Administrator List

  1. Cook Martin Poulson, PC

Cook Martin Poulson, PC is a top provider of retirement plan third party administration services in Salt Lake City, Utah. We take a proactive approach to retirement plan design and implementation, living by our motto: “We are on purpose, not just on task!”

CMP was established in 1977 and the 45 years we’ve been in business, we have formed numerous long-lasting relationships with clients in the Salt Lake City community. Our employees who administer retirement plans are members of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) who have the experience and knowledge to help your company.

We have experience designing and administering a broad range of employee retirement plans including:

  • 401(k) Plans
  • New Comparability/Cross-tested
  • Profit-Sharing Plans
  • Traditional & Integrated
  • Age-Weighted
  • 403(b) Plans
  • Cash Balance Plans
  • Multi-employer Plans
  • Multiple Employer Plans

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Contact Info:

Salt Lake City office:
2180 South 1300 East, Suite 430
Salt Lake City, UT 84106

Logan office:
632 North Main Street
Logan, UT 84321
Twitter: @TaxHeroes

  1. PlanPerfect

PlanPerfect was co-founded by Sheree Tallerman and Tony Delfino in 2008 to become a no-nonsense, flexible plan administrator with the agility to solve complex plan administration problems while providing direct, personal support to their clients.

PlanPerfect’s team works closely with clients to manage employee costs, maximize tax savings, and increase wealth. They will make recommendations to help companies choose the right plan by weighing the advantages of multiple plan designs and explaining the fine points to ensure a good fit.

In addition to administering 401(k) plans, PlanPerfect also manages the following plan types:

  • Profit-sharing plans
  • Defined benefit pension plans
  • Cash balance plans
  • Combo plans

Contact Info:

4001 MacArthur Boulevard
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 749-6455

  1. The Retirement Advantage

The Retirement Advantage (TRA) is one of the leading retirement services companies in the US. They’re a plan administrator specializing in the administration, consultation, and compliance of retirement plans for businesses of all sizes and have been in business for over 20 years.

TRA supports plans in all 50 states, with more than 240 retirement plan experts nationwide. They work closely with their clients to ensure that plans are properly administered, increasing wealth for enrollees. Their success shows in their 97% satisfaction rating.

In addition to 401(k) plan design and administration for sole proprietors and corporations, they provide the following services:

  • 3(16) Plan Administration Relief Services (PARS)
  • Actuarial Services
  • Cash Balance Plans
  • Compliance Restoration
  • Consulting
  • ERISA/Fidelity Bond
  • Fiduciary Liability Insurance
  • Health Savings Account (HSA)
  • Plan Comparison
  • Plan Document Maintenance

Contact Info:

Call (888) 872-2364 to find an office near you.

  1. Spectrum Pension Consultants

Spectrum Pension Consultants has been administering retirement plans since 1978. They are a full-service TPA providing plan consultation, design, administration, and compliance. To date, they have serviced over 750 retirement plans for more than 30,000 enrollees.

Spectrum collaborates with employers to design retirement plans that meet the needs of business owners and their eligible employees. They advise on an ongoing basis, providing signature-ready forms and ensuring compliance with all regulations. They also advise when a retirement plan redesign is necessary as companies grow and change.

In addition to 401(k) consulting, design, and administration, they provide these services:

  • 401(k)/DC Plan Recordkeeping
  • Compass
  • Consulting
  • On-Site Plan Education
  • Payroll360
  • Plan Intelligence
  • Retirement Plan Administration
  • Plan Sponsor Services

Contact Info:

Company HQ:
6402 19th Street West
Tacoma, WA 98466
(253) 565-2100

Find information for other locations here.

Don't Forget Your eBook:
3 Ways To Ensure Your Employee Retirement Plans are Compliant 

  1. Ascensus

Ascensus is the nation’s largest independent recordkeeper and administrator for retirement plans. The large company provides some services that smaller local TPAs may not offer, such as full-fledged online plan management and multilingual employee education.

Of course, there are also some potential downsides to choosing a TPA that manages roughly 40,000 retirement plans. It’s all about what you feel most comfortable with, and if you want to go with a large, nationwide TPA, Ascensus is a quality choice.

Contact Info:

200 Dryden Road
Dresher, PA 19025

Find contact info for other locations here.

  1. Fisher Investments (401)k Solutions

Fisher Investments specializes in retirement plans for small businesses. The company was founded by Ken Fisher, who made a splash back in the 1970s when he pioneered the Price-to-Sales ratio, which is now part of every modern financial curriculum. The company started in 1979 and has grown to include offices across the US.

Fisher has been named as a top advisor by the Financial Times. One thing that sets them apart is the creation of an Investment Policy Committee to oversee every investment decision made on behalf of the firm and its clients.

They administer the following plan types and services:

  • Employer Match
  • Auto-Enrollment
  • Safe Harbor Plan
  • Profit-Sharing Plan
  • Cash Balance Plan
  • Roth 401(k)
  • 403(B) Plan

Contact Info:

5525 NW Fisher Creek Drive
Camas, WA 98607

  1. Third Party Administrators, Inc.

Third Party Administrators, Inc. in New Hampshire offers TPA services including retirement plan management, flexible benefit plan management, administration of these plans, and consulting. With over 100 years of experience in the qualified retirement plan industry, Third Party Administrators, Inc. understands the day-to-day issues that face your business. They use that familiarity to see the big picture when designing your retirement plans.

This TPA specializes in the administration and testing services of Internal Revenue Code Qualified Group Retirement Plans, and currently administers more than 700 qualified retirement plans for all types of entities in various industries.

Contact Info:

2 Executive Park Drive, Suite 100
Bedford, NH 03110

  1. Nova 401(k) Associates

Nova 401(k) Associates is a top-notch TPA service provider with multiple offices throughout Texas. This third-party administrator was awarded two John Hancock Retirement Plan Services Star of Excellence awards in 2014.

Nova offers some excellent online features for their clients, including online webinars and a client portal with plan legal forms, compliance reports, and the ability for plan sponsors to electronically submit their year-end census file and questionnaire online. Their website also has a robust learning center with answers to common questions and educational materials for those interested in TPA services.

Contact Info:

6101 W Courtyard
Building Three, Suite 210
Austin, TX 78730

More locations here.

  1. Dunbar Bender & Zapf

Dunbar Bender & Zapf got its start in Philadelphia in 1991. The business has grown to where it is today, managing 2,800 retirement plans. They have a staff of 65, most of whom are certified through the ASPPA.

DBZ credits its success to education, with special attention paid to ensuring that the employers whose plans they administer (and the employees of those companies) understand their plan benefits and investment options.

In addition to 401(k) plan design and administration, DBZ offers these services and plan types:

  • Traditional Defined Benefit Plan
  • Cash Balance Plan
  • Roth 401(k)
  • 401(k) Safe Harbor Plan
  • Auto-Enrollment Plan
  • Profit-Sharing Plan
  • 403(B) Plan
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)
  • New Comparability Plan
  • Prevailing Wage/Davis Bacon
  • Pennsylvania Municipal Plans

Contact Info:

Frick Building, Suite 1100
437 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Office: (412) 263-0102
Fax: (412) 263-0138

  1. TPS Group

TPS Group has been providing retirement plan administrative services and actuarial services for nearly 60 years. They specialize in administrative services for small and mid-sized companies with a focus on using technology to make plan administration easier for employers.

TPS prides itself on providing ethical and personalized services to its clients, ensuring that each company they work with feels supported.

In addition to traditional 401(k) plans, TPS offers services and plans as follows:

  • Pension Consultation Services
  • 403(b) Plans
  • 457(b) Plans
  • Defined Benefit Plans
  • Cash Balance Plans
  • MEP Retirement Plans
  • Profit-Sharing Plans
  • Public Works Plans
  • TPS 3(16) Plans
  • Payroll Administration
  • Health Reimbursement Accounts
  • Medical Plan Administration

Contact Info:

127 Washington Avenue
West Wing, PO Box 478
North Haven, CT, 06473
Tel: (203) 234-2229
Fax: (203) 234-8369

Find other locations here.

Are You Better Off Using a 401(k) Third Party Administrator?

A primary question to ask yourself when setting up a 401(k) is whether hiring a third party administrator will be beneficial to you.

In many instances, it is the best option because TPAs have the necessary knowledge to understand how 401(k)s should be set up and administered. Furthermore, third party administrators often have many contacts that might get them lower fees, which can be passed on to your employees.

That means your employees can invest their retirement savings in high-end mutual funds and other products that might otherwise be unavailable to them. What’s more, TPAs are experts in the field with a proven track record of positive investment results.

Perhaps most importantly, a TPA can remove the onus of managing your retirement plan, leaving you free to focus on managing your company.

How Do Employers Choose 401(k) TPAs?

Any time an employer searches for a 401(k) TPA, they must research available firms, check credentials and experience, and ask questions to ensure the firm is a good fit for their company and its employees and will take care of all fiduciary responsibilities.

Here are some of the things we recommend you look at when you choose a TPA for your company’s 401(k).

  1. Experience. The company you choose should have at least 10 years of experience administering 401(k) plans, preferably more.
  2. Credentials. You shouldn’t entrust your 401(k) plan to anybody who isn’t certified through the ASPPA or by other professional groups as a fiduciary.
  3. Rates. Any reputable 401(k) TPA will be transparent about rates. You should find out what’s included with their services as well as any services that may cost extra. Management fees are standard, but you should make sure you understand their fee structure.
  4. Plan Type. Some administrators may have experience with only one type of retirement plan while others may have a range of experience.
  5. Reviews. Independent research is always a good idea. Any company can find someone to record a testimonial, but we suggest looking for reviews online to see if clients have highlighted any problems or concerns.
  6. References. You should never hire a TPA without obtaining and calling references. Make sure to ask about the reference’s experience with the company. We suggest asking about the best and worst things about working with them, since people may be reluctant to offer up information about their negative experiences if they’re not asked.
  7. Questions. You should ask your TPA questions to learn about their services and philosophy. Here are some questions to ask:
    1. Do your employees have industry credentials? Which ones?
    2. Do you require forms W-2 and W-3 as well as other components of compensation?
    3. Will you educate my team and employees about the 401(k) plan?
    4. Do you specialize in 401(k) plans, and if not, will my 401(k) plan be a priority?
    5. Do you bundle plan administration services? (We recommend choosing an independent TPA as a way of maintaining a system of checks and balances.)
    6. Do you provide retirement plan design? (Some companies may not need this, but others may need help creating a plan.)
    7. What are the tax consequences of providing a retirement plan for full-time employees?

In addition to the seven questions that we’ve listed here, we recommend asking about anything that seems confusing or unclear. A reputable TPA will be happy to answer any questions you have about their services, fees, and practices.

Is It Time For a New 401K Third Party Plan Administrator?

When it comes to managing your employee retirement plans, you must make the right choice when selecting a third party administrator. The right administrator will help all employees make informed decisions about their contributions and retirement goals.

When selecting your TPA, it’s key to build a relationship with people that you trust. Any provider on our list of top third party administrators above will serve your needs well. If you still aren’t sure what products or services you need, schedule a consultation today to learn more about how a TPA might serve your company’s short- and long-term goals.

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