Plan sponsors might be one of the most closely surveyed and studied roles in the retirement industry, second only to retirement savers and non-savers.
A review of recent surveys within the last year shows three main areas of concern for plan sponsors: applying best practices, managing risk, and improving outcomes for employees.
Below is our cheat sheet compiled from those resources on what plan sponsors are thinking and doing:
1. Plan sponsors are focusing on the financial well-being of employees.
Sure, they care about employees but they also want to increase employee productivity and decrease health care costs -- two areas affected by employee financial stress. Employee financial well-being is, in fact, the number-one initiative of employers, according to Aon’s 2017 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Well-Being study.
2. Plan sponsors want to increase communications with employees. They’re realizing that a laissez-faire approach to employee retirement plan participation is not necessarily going to help the employee or the company. Many realize their budgets for communicating with plan participants are inadequate. According to an Institutional Investor article, up to 38 percent of plan sponsors will be allotting more money for employee communications.
3. Plan sponsors foresee employees reaching retirement age. As they foresee more employees reaching retirement-eligible age between now and 2020, they realize they need to communicate better with near-retirees and tweak systems and tools to help them be more self-service oriented, the Aon study says.
4. Plan sponsors are trying to increase the level of employee savings and increase employee knowledge about how much employees need to save. These two goals are related, but obviously not the same.Plan sponsors are considering the following actions, Aon says, such as “increasing defaults, changing contribution escalation provisions, or sending targeted communications to participants.”
5. Plan sponsors want to cut costs. As a result, some are moving from actively managed funds to indexed funds to meet that goal, the Aon study says.
6. Plan sponsors are concerned about defined contribution plan leakage, particularly with loans. Loans are a type of “leakage” from 401(k0 plans that not only add complexity to a plan sponsor’s life, they interfere with participant saving.
7. Plan sponsors want more frequent reviews of their plans with their advisor. A MassMutual study says that 57 percent of plan sponsors surveyed want at least a semiannual review. The study notes that only one in four reviews with an advisor actually focus on participants’ savings effectiveness – most reviews spend more time on fees or on the plan provider relationship.
8. Plan sponsors are concerned about fiduciary duties. According to a Fidelity study, 38% would like more assistance figuring out those duties
9. Plan sponsors are willing to consider a future where companies get out of the plan sponsor business. The risk of litigation haunts many. A CIO article reported on an informal survey conducted by Bob Collie at a Russell client conference in 2015. Collie found that over three-quarters of plan sponsor attendees liked the idea of getting companies and plan sponsors out of the retirement business.