Art by Chris Buzelli

2015 Defined Contribution Survey

PLANSPONSOR'S much anticipated annual Defined Contribution Survey measures and evaluates the satisfaction levels of 401(k) and other DC providers according to feedback from their plan sponsor clients. Major defined contribution providers are rated in 23 areas of participant/sponsor services. The information collected is intended for plan sponsors to gauge their plans against their peers.

Published in PLANSPONSOR November 2015

Navigate Research

Average Service Ratings

1 = poor; 7 = excellent
Overall Net Recommendation Score
Overall Participant Service Scores
Recordkeeper Average Participant Service Ratings
Participant call center(s)6.265.686.71
Website functionality6.205.686.66
Online tools/ services6.195.506.60
Participant statements6.295.646.76
Education program5.925.266.54
Communication materials6.035.336.63
Enrollment assistance6.185.306.70
Retiree services6.365.826.82
On-site meetings6.025.066.67
Range of investments6.546.116.87
Loan/Withdrawal processing6.425.766.85
Beneficiary administration6.255.596.76
Participant fee disclosure6.245.716.70
Overall Sponsor Service Scores
Recordkeeper Average Sponsor Service Ratings
Sponsor website/tools6.175.406.66
Plan reports/benchmarking6.085.346.60
Form 5500 processing6.465.636.91
Compliance support/testing6.455.856.91
Legislative/Regulatory updates6.345.686.83
Account team knowledge6.515.716.91
Service team responsiveness6.485.686.93
Staff consistency6.375.326.93
Plan design flexibility6.385.516.89
Cost-to-value of plan fees6.085.446.67


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Survey/Best in Class: Between late June and mid-September, approximately 40,000 survey questionnaires were sent to defined contribution (DC) plan sponsors listed in the PLANSPONSOR magazine database, as well as to client lists supplied by defined contribution providers; a total of 5,109 responses were received by the close of the survey, September 18. To qualify for ratings, a provider needed a minimum of 35 client responses; to be rated in a particular asset category, a provider had to meet specified minimum response levels. A total of 31 providers qualified for listing; additional details on these and other providers can be found in our 2015 Recordkeeping Survey.

Provider Listings: Providers were rated in 23 areas of participant/sponsor services covering: Technology, Education, Plan Administration, Fees and Investments, and Account/Client Service Teams. The percentage of “completely satisfied” ratings among all categories was calculated both overall and in each of six plan asset sizes; percentages were then ranked among all 31 qualifying providers: 18 <$5mm providers; 21 $5mm – $25mm providers; 11 >$25mm – $50mm providers; 12 >$50 mm – $200mm providers; nine >$200mm – $1b providers; and seven >$1b providers. The recommendation likelihood score is based on Satmetrix Systems’ Net Promoter ScoreSM.* For more information, contact Brian O’Keefe at

*Net Recommendation/Promoter Score represents the percentage of respondents “very likely to recommend” the provider (i.e., giving it a score of 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) minus the percentage of scores of 6 or below (i.e., “neutrals” and those “likely to recommend against”).


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For nearly two decades, PLANSPONSOR's annual Defined Contribution Survey has been the most important industry benchmark, measuring and evaluating 401(k) and other DC providers according to feedback from their own clients. Major defined contribution providers are rated in the various client categories they serve, and benchmark information is collected for plan sponsors to gauge their plans against their peers.