Retirement Plan Communications and Planning Going Digital

Employer-sponsored retirement plan providers are increasing digital offerings, but participants may need prompting to use these tools.

By Rebecca Moore | December 20, 2016
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The world is undergoing a digital transformation, and everything is going digital now, including personal financial management and commerce, says TIAA’s Chief Digital Officer and CIO, Scott Blandford, who is based in Iselin, New Jersey. And, the same is true for employer-sponsored retirement plan data and communications.

The digital transformation has moved more slowly with plan providers, but it is inevitable that it will be required, Blandford tells PLANSPONSOR.

Corporate Insight Senior Retirement Analyst Andrew Way, in New York City, says, “It is important for [plan providers] to get on board because of the way industry is going right now. There are two segments of plan sponsors regarding retirement planning—one says ‘let us do all work,’ but a large and growing segment is taking the approach that they want employees to engage with the plan and realize how important it is to save and how it is on them now to save.”

One way to help people do that, Way tells PLANSPONSOR, is to provide a modern online experience, where they can see their account data, where it is going in the future, how to allocate investments properly and the importance of saving often and more. He says retirement readiness and income projection tools on websites are growing and popular. “It is important to provide participants with knowledge to take control.”

Corporate Insight follows the digital offerings of 20 retirement plan providers—19 of which are the largest providers according to assets under management (AUM) in the PLANSPONSOR Recordkeeping Survey. Four key trends Corporate Insight is seeing among the 20 retirement plan providers it tracks include:

  • Increased focus on employee retirement readiness and financial wellness;
  • Proliferation of responsive design;
  • Emergence of comprehensive mobile and tablet apps; and
  • More personalized approach to retirement planning.

According to Blandford, TIAA also offers Plan Focus, a product for plan sponsors. “We recognize that offering features and functions isn’t going to be enough, plan sponsors expect coordination of the digital tools they use,” he says. “We think sponsors will want to position plans and providers carefully, manage features of the plan directly through the portal, offer text messaging alerts, and get real time updates on key processes, reports, etc.”

TIAA has seen a 200% increase in administrator web property; it has transformed more than 100 formerly paper forms to a digital experience, and there is a 73% increase in use of some key features on the administrator website. “It helps them with adoption and utilization. They don’t need training because they know how other digital tools work,” Blandford adds. “Plan sponsors are under time and budget pressure, our digital tools save them time. They will have more time to do other things they do for their business.”

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