Consulting firms reported an increase in their defined contribution client base from 2011 to 2012, according to PIMCO's "2012 Defined Contribution Consulting Support and Trends Survey." The survey solicited information from 39 consulting firms across the U.S. that serve more than 3,600 plan sponsors with aggregate DC assets of more than $1.8 trillion as of Dec. 31, 2011. The average number of clients went from 94 in 2011 to 110 this year.

It also found that 71 percent of clients served by consultants are corporate plan sponsors. Thirteen percent are for-profits and 8 percent are public plans. On average, 45 percent of firm revenue comes from these firms' DC business. The survey found that the fastest-growing DC areas reported by consultants include total plan cost/fee studies, DC plan design, DC recordkeeping searches, manager selection and monitoring and target-date asset allocation creation.

Of those surveyed, 97 percent recommend that clients offer a target-date or target-risk investment tier. Sixty-nine percent actively promote custom target-date strategies or support client interest in this area; 4 percent believe custom target-date strategies make sense for plans with $500 million or less; and about a third, 29 percent, of consultants believe a second target-date series or specific vintage may make sense.

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