Issue Intro | Published in May 2017

Standing Out

What drives plan sponsors to seriously pursue educating participants about the importance of saving for retirement?

By Judy Faust Hartnett | May 2017

PS517_Cover_300px.jpgArt by Katherine StreeterEditor-in-Chief Alison Cooke Mintzer calls “awards season,” I often wonder what drives some companies and plan sponsors to seriously pursue educating participants about the importance of saving for retirement and then dedicating themselves to motivating employees to act to do just that. Are they just plain do-gooders? Do they set huge goals for themselves in their business and personal lives? Are they thinking of their company bottom line?
For instance, truck dealership JX Enterprises, winner in the Plan Sponsor of the Year Corporate 401(k) >$10 million category, had trouble getting employees to enroll in its plan. The sponsor and its adviser took on the challenge, adding automatic enrollment and ongoing multi-media educational programs; as a result 80% of associates have a positive retirement forecast. Or take Corporate 401(k) >$50 million through $100 million winner WD-40 Company, which is very generous to its participants. This plan sponsor considers employees its “tribe” and offers participants 18.3% of qualifying compensation. These are just two of the remarkable winners of this year’s awards; all are profiled.
Likewise, the PLANSPONSOR Service Star Awards are given to retirement plan account representatives and relationship managers who, in the words of their plan sponsor clients, have demonstrated exemplary service. Janet Rogers, financial control projects leader for Empower Retirement, comes to mind. When Southwest Airlines was told with extremely short notice that it could not move from one small-cap fund manager to a different investment firm without a loss to the fund, she was called in as project leader. In successfully moving the securities, her task list was long, but, like the others recognized at the PLANSPONSOR/PLANADVISER Awards for Excellence dinner earlier this spring, she held the bar for herself high.
Although much has been said about the death of defined benefit (DB) retirement plans, that market is still much alive. For plan sponsors with those plans, don’t miss our 2017 Defined Benefit Administration Survey. It discusses how the market has changed and profiles many of the major providers, listing the services they offer.
I had the opportunity to interview Kenneth Levine and Kevin Hanney of United Technologies Corp. (UTC) for Plan Profile. UTC has long been a leader in the retirement plan benefits world—in both defined benefit and defined contribution (DC) plans—and we named it a PLANSPONSOR “Best in Class” 401(k) plan this year. We discuss UTC’s Lifetime Income Strategy Fund. Those sponsors said, “We’re not doing what we do solely because we’re good people. There is a commercial objective, and it’s aligned with the fiduciary objective of maximizing the user experience—giving people the power to retire on their own terms with dignity. That has a quantifiable return on shareholder capital that goes back into the bottom line.” Now, they hope other plan sponsors will join them in adding such options to their plans.
We hope our profiles of your peers inspire you to think about your plans. For more insight and ideas, we hope to see you at the PLANSPONSOR National Conference, June 7 through 9, in Washington D.C.!

 —Judy Faust Hartnett, Managing Editor