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DC plans feel more responsible for participants’ financial wellness — JPMAM survey

Defined contribution plan sponsors feel a growing sense of responsibility for participants' financial wellness and have become more intent on enhancing plans to improve retirement outcomes for participants, said a survey issued Thursday by J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPM).

Results showed that 24% of the DC plan sponsors surveyed cite "ensuring sufficient income in retirement" as the main reason for offering their plan, a figure that has doubled since 2013.

Also, more than half of plan sponsors now have a proactive placement philosophy.

DC plan sponsors are taking advantage of innovative design features and investment vehicles to strengthen their plans. Of the sponsors surveyed, 64% have implemented auto enrollment; 62% offer target-date funds; 50% have implemented auto escalation; and 13% have either conducted or plan to conduct a plan re-enrollment.

"Significant progress has occurred over the last four years," said Catherine Peterson, managing director and global head of insights programs at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, in a phone interview. "The entire plan population is now where large plans were in 2015. So were seeing broad progress on many fronts."

Ms. Peterson added that she found it "extremely encouraging" that DC plan sponsors are shifting their mindsets toward their plans in that they're more concerned about retirement outcomes and the financial well-being of their participants.

"They're definitely concerned about outcomes," she said.

However, despite many positive trends in this year's biannual survey, misperceptions in fiduciary status remain. Though 100% of all respondents are fiduciaries, 43% were still not aware of this fact, unchanged from the last survey conducted in 2015.

"This is disappointing," said Ms. Peterson. "But it presents an opportunity for improvement."

JPMAM partnered with market research firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates to conduct an online survey of 968 plan sponsors in January.

The survey findings can be found on JPMAM's website.