Proud ERISA Fiduciary

There’s a lot of news about the term “fiduciary” these days, and in different areas of the financial world, sadly, the word means different things.

Investopedia (of which we’re proud to be a featured Advisory Firm) defines “fiduciary” as:

A fiduciary is a person who acts on behalf of another person, or persons to manage assets. Essentially, a fiduciary is a person or organization that owes to another the duties of good faith and trust. The highest legal duty of one party to another, it also involves being bound ethically to act in the other’s best interests. A fiduciary might be responsible for general well-being, but often it involves finances — managing the assets of another person, or of a group of people, for example. Money managers, financial advisers, bankers, accountants, executors, board members, and corporate officers can all be considered fiduciaries. 

nVest Advisors is always a full, legal fiduciary, for all of our clients, from the first day and first dollar invested. And we will be, for as long as you’re a client.

What kinds of things does a plan fiduciary do?

Depending on the plan type and vendor selected, we operate as either an ERISA 3(21) or 3(38) fiduciary. Don’t let those terms confuse you. Here’s what they mean:

If we are a 3(21) fiduciary for your plan:

  • We will help you select and set up the correct plan type and choose an investment platform / provider, who then operates as a 3(38) fiduciary in our place. We only have this arrangement with two platforms, over which we don’t control the actual investment models or funds used.
  • We’ll still provide our wide range of services to you and your plan participants, like for all other plans. But if we are a 3(21) fiduciary for you, the actual investment selections will be made by our chosen custodian/platform.

If we are a 3(38) fiduciary for your plan:

  • We will help you select and set up the correct plan type with your input.
  • We will create and maintain the list of available investment and model options for your plan, independently of you, at our discretion. Generally, we review and potentially make investment changes to our employer plans twice a calendar year.
  • And, of course, we offer a host of ongoing plan and participant services on an ongoing basis.


Most employers want to, for legal reasons, pass the responsibility of investment selection and monitoring to a professional advisory firm. Only Registered Advisory Firms (like ours), banks, and some trust companies are allowed to assume ERISA 3(38) fiduciary responsibilities.