Choosing your Group RRSP provider can seem daunting. It doesn't have to be — this is what you need to know.

How to Choose a Group RRSP Provider in Canada: What You Didn’t Know to Ask

Wealthsimple Work provides employers with a modern financial wellness benefit for employees.

As an employer, it can be tough to find ways to attract top talent and offer the right combination of benefits to your existing staff. Free snacks and nap pods are fun perks, but you want to make a real impact on your employees’ lives. Group registered retirement savings plans, also called Group RRSPs or GRSPs, can offer something much more worthwhile than snacks.

How can implementing a GRSP do some real good in your employees’ lives?

Supporting your staff in building solid financial futures can help them feel valued in your organization, get them closer to achieving personal goals, and can even remove some financial anxiety so they’re better able to focus on the job. 

Once you decide to shop around for a Group RRSP provider, you might realize just how big a decision this is, and you might even become overwhelmed by all of the options. Just like any other big decision, you’ll want to take the time to understand which companies offer the best retirement plans, and what factors are the most important to consider.

In this guide to Group RRSP providers in Canada, we’ll cover the four main types of Group RRSP providers, plus 11 things to consider when your company is shopping for your next group retirement plan. 

What is a Group RRSP provider?

A Group RRSP provider is a company that can set up and manage a group retirement savings plan for the employees in your organization. This group registered retirement savings plan is similar to the kind of RRSP your staff might hold as individuals, except in this case, a provider manages a plan for the whole group. They set up the plan, handle payroll deductions, and guide employees with their choice of funds and portfolios. Ideally, they have a super user-friendly platform for employees, so you don’t have to act as an investment advisor or tech support.  

This approach can serve up financial security for your employees, and can even reduce the overall fees you’d normally incur on RRSP funds, almost like getting a group discount. A GRSP also allows you to match your staff’s savings up to a percentage, making it an attractive addition to their overall compensation.

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With a GRSP provider on board, you’ll have a partner to handle investments and help manage the plan. Your HR or finance team will still need to run point on adding employees to the plan and rolling out communication around it, but with the right provider, you’ll have full support to make it a success. This means more time to run your operations, and less time pulling out your hair. Your scalp already thanks you.

Types of Group RRSP providers in Canada

When looking for potential Group RRSP providers, you’ll want to have an idea of what kinds of companies offer these plans. You can then dig in to see how their plans are structured, how much support they offer, and what your experience might be like if you were to work with them—i.e, whether you’ll be getting Champagne or lemonade treatment. 

Four main types of RRSP companies can administer group retirement plans for your organization, and while any will manage the whole program for you, the specifics can vary widely. These companies include:

  • insurance companies (the most common type of provider)

  • banks

  • mutual fund companies

  • self-directed trustees

  • online financial services providers

You’ll find the first four types of providers on the list offer more traditional plans and support structures, while online financial services providers represent a more modern solution combining technology with human expertise and support. 

Before vetting providers, we’d recommend sitting down with a cup of coffee and thinking about why you want to offer a GRSP to your staff. You may want to support your existing employees with retirement planning or help them achieve overall financial wellness. Or, you might like to offer a desirable benefits package to stand out from competitors when hiring and recruiting. It might be a combo deal or all of the above, but getting your goals and values sorted early will help you make the best decision.

11 key considerations when shopping for a GRSP provider

Finding Group RRSP providers in Canada isn’t necessarily hard, but finding a provider who can align with your company values is more challenging. The provider you choose will become a significant partner in how you offer benefits to your employees, both current and future. How they administer their plans and support you and your team will affect both your experience and your employee satisfaction level.

While there are benefits brokers and advisors you could rely on to help make your decision, it’s good to do your own research first. You’ll want to have enough insight to make sure you know what questions to ask and how to discover your options, like a modern provider, that might even be a better fit for you than the traditional providers a broker will bring forward. After all, you know your team and culture best, so don’t be afraid to do a little homework first.

Once you find a few of the best retirement plan companies, run through some comparisons to see how they stack up against one another. Here are some critical considerations to help you know what to look for to find the right provider for your organization.

1. Employee experience 

Your GRSP is a vital part of your benefit plan and an appealing element for current and future employees. A successful employee savings plan needs to put the experience of the user at the forefront. Many group savings plans are underused simply because employees find it too overwhelming to get started and never enroll at all.

You’ll want a provider who can create a quality experience with seamless and simple onboarding, as well as a platform that your employees find easy to use. If onboarding is too complicated, or your staff feel it’s too difficult to get the information or support they need, they’ll simply ignore the whole thing. That’s a waste of everyone’s time—not to mention, those employees will lose the opportunity to get a leg up in saving for important milestones in their lives. 

Ask potential providers how they ensure seamless onboarding. Let them walk you through obstacles that could reduce enrollment or cause frustration, such as account minimums, long vesting periods before employees can access their funds, and a confusing or outdated platform. 

Ensure the platform is accessible by any mobile device, as this is likely how many of your employees currently bank and manage their finances. 

2. Account fees

Fees can eat up a lot of your staff’s savings, especially over the long term. Hungry little buggers! If you intend for a GRSP to help your employees build a more solid financial foundation, make sure the plan you choose won’t derail this goal. Look for a provider who can offer you a plan with fees less than 1%. The lower the fees, the more of every contribution they get to keep.

Keeping fees low can make a significant difference to your employees’ retirement, ensuring the time and effort you invest in managing your GRSP is well spent.

3. Access to dedicated support

Having a good experience with a GRSP can very much depend on the support offered by the provider. Look for a provider who will offer you a dedicated support person, someone ready to help you any time an issue crops up, so you aren’t frustrated by long wait times or sending support tickets into the ether. 

4. Other product offerings 

Find out if the provider you’re vetting also offers other financial products. Do they help with taxes, savings accounts, investment trading, or RESPs? Financial planning can feel like a puzzle for those just starting to figure it out. Help your employees out by making sure they have easy access to the pieces that will make them successful, without having to search under the couch. 

Building on financial wellness within the same company encourages your employees to explore and work toward other financial goals.

5. Access to a financial advisor

It’s helpful for employees to have access to a financial advisor to ask questions about investment options, guide retirement planning, and help them feel more confident about their financial situation as a whole. Many will be happy to simply follow the plan; others may have questions about how the GRSP fits into their other financial plans.

6. Fund selection process

Many traditional Group RRSP providers in Canada offer a fund selection sheet with a long list of funds. There are lots of options to choose from, usually with names and codes that can be confusing to those not working in financial services. You know, the kind of list that makes your eyes glaze over?

Other GRSP providers offer a questionnaire that provides recommendations, or a more curated selection that makes it easy for your employees to choose funds that are a good fit. Consider your options here carefully, since the fund selection process is one key to your program’s success.

Focus on sparking interest and boosting enrollment numbers by keeping things simple for your employees. If they can’t understand what’s on offer, they’re unlikely to commit to your plan. 

7. Employer experience 

Consider what the experience will be like for you to change to a new provider or begin your first GRSP once you choose a company. 

Find out what’s involved in the process of transferring if you’re currently using another provider and how involved you’ll have to be to coordinate those efforts. Ask questions about onboarding and support, as well as whether the provider you’re considering can integrate with your payroll system. 

What should you be asking providers?

Dig into how long it will take to get through each step they outline, who you’ll be dealing with at each stage. These questions will help you get a sense of how responsive they’ll be and just what you’re in for if you decide to move forward. 

8. Education and employee resources

There can be a significant learning curve when you first present GRSP information at onboarding or when your company adopts a new plan. As an employer, your focus should be on choosing a provider who can offer a robust educational experience to weave into your other employee benefits resources. 

How you introduce a GRSP to new and future hires will affect enrollment numbers, and it’s best the provider offers support for your whole team. Look for a provider that offers ongoing education to help employees see the value in enrolling and staying in the plan. 

What should this education look like?

On-demand sessions that help employees get information relevant to their personal situation are particularly helpful. Online access to information is important, as is including some live sessions where staff can ask questions of advisors or portfolio managers. With these simple and accessible resources, you can ensure your GRSP is adopted and enjoyed by as many employees as possible without an extra burden on you or your HR team to answer investing questions.

9. Inclusive options

Companies working towards more consistent diversity and inclusion will want to consider how inclusive their GRSP truly is. Can all your employees make use of the plan? Are there options that allow staff to choose socially responsible investing or halal options for those who may want to invest with these principles in mind? 

Your GRSP should be accessible to your entire team and future hires, just like any of your other benefits. 

10. Flexibility

When considering an employee savings plan, think about the needs of your employees and what they’ll want to get out of this benefit. It’s likely that – just like with every other benefit – individual priorities and needs will be different for everyone.  Some employees may need or want to use the funds for something else before retirement, like a home purchase or a return to school. Others may be focused solely on retirement.

If you choose a provider that takes those other possibilities into consideration and offers portfolios or funds that can adapt to a range of financial goals, then your employees will be able to customize their GRSP according to their needs – and make ongoing changes as those needs evolve. Alternatively, you can choose a provider that is focused solely on providing retirement funds. Take some time and consider your company’s overall objective in creating this benefit and the demographics of your workforce. The provider you choose may change depending on what you want employees to get out of this benefit or who your main audience is.

11. Past performance 

Ask any provider you’re considering to walk you through the past performance of their funds. It’s an important step, but be aware it can be difficult to compare performance across providers for a few reasons:

  1. Risk level changes the proportion of equities vs. securities.

  2. Gross returns bury your fees in the total returns, while net returns separate them out.

  3. Investment approach varies by provider. Ask for past performance of actively managed mutual funds vs. market growth.

With this in mind, look for transparency and for providers who are willing to share past performance numbers, details on their fees, and the breakdown of the returns they’re showing you.

Adding a Group RRSP to your employee benefits package can help you stay competitive, reward your existing team and help build a workplace culture of support that extends your company values. It’s a worthwhile investment in helping your employees work towards financial security, but it’s no simple undertaking.

It’ll take some work to find the right provider and get started, but this could be one of those things you’re really proud of in your organization someday. That’s a feeling we all could use more of.

Found a Group RRSP provider in Canada and ready to move ahead? Make sure you get the most out of your group retirement savings plan with these best practices for implementing a group RRSP.

Katie oversees all things content for the Wealthsimple Work team, creating resources that helps employers big and small encourage financial wellness within their own teams.

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