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Many retirement plan sponsors are keeping their employees' interests at the top of theirpriority lists — and tweaking plans accordingly, a recent studysuggests. Three investment changes and four plan design changes top the list of the mostcommon ways they are adjusting plans.

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Related: Here are 7 ways 401(k)s have changed injust 5 years

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That's according to Fidelity Investments's latest Plan SponsorAttitudes Study, which indicated that plan sponsors are continuingto make changes to their plans in an effort to improve theirofferings. The study reports that plan sponsors are most concernedabout preparing employees for retirement financially, with 27percent of respondents citing this as their top concern. To thatend, over the last two years, 74 percent of survey participantsreported making changes to their investment menus, and 82 percentsaid they've made plan design changes.

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The most commonly reported investment changes were to increasethe number of investment options, replace an underperforming fundand add a target-date fund.

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In terms of plan design, company match was a clear priority forsponsors, as adding a matching contribution, increasing thematching contribution amount and changing the matching formularepresented three of four top changes made over the past two years,Fidelity Investments noted in a press release. Adding a Rothcontribution option rounded out the four most common changes.

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While current market forces may prompt some new conversationsregarding plan design, when Fidelity separately surveyed about 900plan sponsors during a plan sponsor webinar in mid-April, 63percent said they are not considering a reduction or suspension oftheir company match. And according to data from Fidelity recordkeptplans, 10.1 percent of participants increased contributions inApril 2020 versus 8.9 percent in April 2019. However, 2.5 percentstopped contributing this year compared to 1.5 percent lastyear.

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The February study also found that 92 percent of plan sponsorsreported they work with plan advisors, and, further, that 70percent are "very satisfied" with their relationships. Sponsorswith advisors also reported being more satisfied that their plansare achieving company and participant objectives than thosewithout.

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"While supporting their employees' retirement readiness hasalways been a top priority for plan sponsors, the current marketcrisis has accelerated its importance," Liz Pathe, head of DCIO sales for FidelityInstitutional Asset Management, said in a statement. "Plan sponsorsare looking for guidance and reassurance during this difficulttime, and we continue to see plan advisors playing an importantrole in helping companies identify ways to improve their retirementplans and help their employees strengthen their financialwell-being."

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The study also noted that 44 percent of plan sponsors reportedthat they review performance of their plans' investment options atleast quarterly, down from 58 percent last year.

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"In our conversations with plan sponsors and advisors,investment performance is now top-of-mind given the potential forcontinued market volatility," Pathe said. "Plan advisors can play amore active role by proactively reviewing plans' investment menuswith sponsors and working to address their concerns."

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Other plan sponsor concerns? Eighteen percent of plan sponsorscited concerns over fiduciary responsibilities, followed by another17 percent that reported reducing business costs related to theplan as their main concern.

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The study, released May 18, surveyed 1,555 plan sponsors betweenFeb. 2-24.

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Sarah Tincher, based in Austin, is themanaging editor of Corporate Counsel and The National Law Journal.Contact her at [email protected]. On Twitter: @sarahntincher

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