What Is a Qualified Professional Asset Manager?

What Is a Qualified Professional Asset Manager?

A QPAM is a registered investment advisor who helps institutions with their investment decisions. Its main area of focus is retirement accounts, particularly pension plans. By working with this adviser, investment funds can conduct business in sectors that ERISA regulations would otherwise restrict. This is referred to as a QPAM exemption. As long as they are registered investment advisers with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), banks and insurance companies can be considered QPAMs. A Qualified Professional Asset Manager is known as an investment adviser that is registered and has at least $85 million in assets under management and shareholder's equity of $1 million or more.


Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs), known as Qualified Professional Asset Managers (QPAMs), play a vital role in facilitating financial investments for diverse institutions. Their expertise is particularly focused on managing retirement accounts, including pension plans.

The significance of QPAMs lies in their ability to enable investment funds and retirement plans to engage in transactions that would otherwise be restricted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). By entrusting their management to QPAMs, these entities can navigate and transact in previously prohibited areas.

What Is a Qualified Professional Asset Manager?

The landscape of Qualified Professional Asset Managers is intricately shaped by the criteria outlined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Established institutions, including banks and insurance companies, can meet the qualifying standards of a QPAM. Furthermore, amendments effective from August 2005 extend the definition to encompass registered investment advisers boasting a substantial asset under management (AUM) of at least $85 million and shareholder's equity exceeding $1 million.

A pivotal regulatory advantage awaits investment funds through the QPAM exemption. By entrusting the management of an investment fund to a QPAM, many transactions that would typically face ERISA restrictions are unlocked.

ERISA inherently forbids certain transactions involving conflicted entities when conducted with an ERISA-governed plan or fund. Yet, when a QPAM enters the equation, this prohibition dissipates, extending the freedom of engagement to plan sponsors and fiduciaries. However, it is essential to note that transactions cannot be pursued with the QPAM itself or with entities capable of exerting influence over the QPAM.

A significant responsibility QPAMs undertake revolves around representing pension plans in private placements. Thoroughly vetting private placements for pension funds falls within the purview of QPAMs. Additionally, these qualified professionals are well-versed in assisting investment plans seeking diversification through real estate or alternative investments.

Navigating Prohibited Transactions with Qualified Professional Asset Managers

ERISA section 406(a) allows a qualified professional asset manager to engage in transactions that are usually prohibited. These transactions encompass a wide range of activities, including sales, exchanges, leases, loans/extensions of credit, and the provision of services between a party of interest and a pension plan.

By leveraging the expertise of a QPAM, trustees can mitigate the risk of personal liability stemming from potential errors, provided that they exercise prudence in their utilization of the QPAM. It is important to note, however, that utilizing a QPAM does not serve as an invulnerable shield against breaches of fiduciary duty.

Requirements for Qualified Professional Asset Managers

Eligibility for the role of a qualified professional asset manager is defined by Prohibited Transaction Class Exemption 84-14, as issued by the Department of Labor. The qualifying conditions include the following:

  1. QPAMs must be either banks, savings and loan associations, or insurance companies possessing equity capital or net worth exceeding $1 million. Alternatively, they can be registered investment advisers with assets under management surpassing $85 million and equity exceeding $1 million.
  2. The counterparty involved in the transaction must not be the QPAM itself or affiliated with the QPAM or the appointed fiduciary. A related entity is defined as one where the QPAM holds a 10% or greater ownership stake or an individual who controls or is controlled by the QPAM has a 20% or greater ownership stake. Similarly, if the party in interest controls or is controlled by an entity, they must hold a 20% or greater ownership stake in the QPAM.
  3. The asset manager must explicitly confirm in written form to the client that they are acting as a fiduciary.
  4. The QPAM is responsible for negotiating the transaction terms and making decisions on behalf of the plan regarding engagement in the transaction.
  5. A QPAM must not have a conviction relating to specific activities that could compromise financial trust.

By adhering to these criteria, qualified professional asset managers can confidently navigate their role in the financial landscape.


Qualified professional asset managers play a crucial role in assisting institutions with their investment decisions, particularly in managing retirement accounts like pension plans. By utilizing the expertise of QPAMs, investment funds can overcome the restrictions imposed by ERISA regulations and engage in transactions that would otherwise be prohibited. This regulatory advantage, known as the QPAM exemption, opens up new avenues for investment funds to explore.

To qualify as a QPAM, institutions must meet specific criteria defined by the Department of Labor, such as having a certain level of equity capital or net worth, or being registered investment advisers with substantial assets under management. These requirements ensure the competence and financial stability of QPAMs.

Trustees who engage QPAMs can benefit from reduced personal liability for potential errors, provided they exercise prudence in their use of QPAM services. However, it's important to note that utilizing a QPAM does not absolve them from their fiduciary duties.

Qualified Professional Asset Manager