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Defined Contribution

Helping employees, reducing costs among DC execs’ top concerns – Fidelity survey

The top concerns for defined contribution plan executives are helping employees prepare for retirement financially, retaining top workers and reducing plan-related business costs, Fidelity Investments' most recent annual Plan Sponsor Attitudes survey released Monday showed.

Whether the DC plan is effectively preparing employees for retirement was cited by 33% of respondents as a top concern, up from 22% last year, followed by whether the plan is helping to retain top workers (12%, up from 2%); and whether plan-related business costs were being reduced (15%, down from 32%). Reducing plan-related business costs was the top concern last year.

Fidelity's survey also found 83% and 82% of plan executives, respectively, reported making investment menu and plan design changes within the past two years. In last year's survey, 93% and 92% of plan executives reported making investment menu and plan design changes, respectively, within the past two years.

The most popular investment changes plan executives reported making were increasing the number of investment options available, cited by 37% of respondents; replacing an underperforming fund (33%, down from 36% in last year's survey); and adding an index fund, 28% (unchanged from last year).

The most popular plan design changes were adding or changing a matching contribution (39%, up from 25% in the 2017 survey); enrolling or re-enrolling participants into a target-date option (31%, up from 29%); and a Roth contribution option, 30%.

Additionally, 92% of plan executives surveyed reported working with an adviser, the highest level in the survey's 10-year history and up from 80% last year.

Forty-four percent of plan executives said they have been working with their current adviser for four years or less, and 22% said they were looking to switch advisers, down from 38% in 2017.

The top reasons plan executives cited for hiring advisers were a desire to better understand how well their plans are working for employees and how they can improve them, according to 27% of plan officials, up from 7% in 2017; the employers have grown and their retirement plans have become more complicated (26%, down from 27% in 2017); and they have less time to devote to the retirement plans and are looking for assistance (16%, up from 2% in 2017). Last year, fiduciary concerns were cited as the top reason for hiring an adviser by 37% of plan sponsors; only 14% of respondents selected that response this year.

Harris Insights and Analytics surveyed 1,124 sponsors of 401(k) plans on behalf of Fidelity in February. Both clients and non-clients were surveyed; Fidelity was not identified as the survey sponsor.