The Trans World Airlines Inc./International Federation of Flight Attendants and Toro Co. were the big winners in Pensions & Investments' 1996 Defined Contribution Investment Education Awards.
The TWA/IFFA and Toro Co. investment education programs each took home two awards.
TWA/IFFA, Kansas City, Mo., was first among large companies (those with more than 5,000 employees) in initial educational brochures, and tied for second in the video category. Twentieth Century Services Inc., Kansas City, Mo., worked with TWA.
Toro, Minneapolis, was first among companies with 1,000 to 5,000 employees in the initial brochures category and tied for first in the video category. Putnam Investments, Boston, assisted Toro.
The contest entries showed the standard of excellence for 401(k) employee investment education is rising.
Just one year after P&I presented its first awards, judges found the quality of investment education - the teaching of employees to understand and invest their defined contribution plan assets - has risen several notches. The more than 90 investment education programs submitted for consideration were almost uniformly better than the previous year's entries.
Entries were judged on many criteria, including the completeness of the investment information provided and on how clearly and attractively such information was presented.
The awards were given for three types of educational programs: printed initial brochures; printed ongoing education; and videos. Contestants were judged against peers with similar numbers of employees.
One important consideration was the level of customization. Winning entries strongly tied the defined contribution plan back to the employer, and concentrated on the specific features of that plan.
Autos 'drive' Chrysler entry
The winning video entry in the large employer category was from Chrysler Corp., Highland Park, Mich. The video's theme was "Mapping the Road to Retirement." It used Chrysler's rich heritage as an automobile manufacturer to great effect. Chrysler worked with Merrill Lynch Group Employee Services, Princeton, N.J.
Chrysler products were shown as employees drove down a road to investment success.
Snippets of familiar Chrysler television commercials were turned into lessons about overcoming barriers to retirement. For example, an instantly recognizable image for a Chrysler employee used a clip from a commercial in which a Jeep Cherokee rolled effortlessly over large rocks and into the front yard of a mansion.
The correlation to surmounting retirement savings barriers was perfectly clear.
The Chrysler video used the image of a speedometer to illustrate the risk spectrum. Historical returns of various asset classes were shown as digital volume readings on a car radio. Asset allocation was expressed in the form of a divided steering wheel.
And, Chrysler employees spoke directly to their peers throughout the video in terms every employee could understand.
Investment basics were covered using familiar objects and images, and often in the setting of an assembly plant, design lab or office.
Centex 'builds' program
Even smaller companies were able to capitalize on their industries.
Centex Corp., Dallas, the country's largest home builder, designed an initial education brochure centered on its core business. Bricks, mortar and concrete showed employees how to build a secure retirement future, substituting stocks, bonds and cash for the tools of their regular trade.
Employees in regular work clothes - hard hats, boots and tool belts - were pictured throughout the brochure to convince employees that their peers already were doing what they ought to be doing. State Street Bank & Trust Co., Boston, worked with Centex.
Many of the winners used local or regional vendors.
The Portland, Ore.-based partnership of Portland General Corp. and COMMUNI(K) Inc. collaborated on an initial education brochure in the midsized plan category.
R.W. Beckett Corp., North Ridgeville, Ohio, combined the talents of the Cleveland office of Coopers & Lybrand L.L.P. with those of Highland Capital Associates Inc., Westlake, Ohio, for a winning entry in the small plan initial education category.
The Pillsbury Co., Minneapolis, worked with hometown provider American Express Institutional Services to provide a winner for ongoing education for larger employees.
Frank Russell Co., Tacoma, Wash., worked with PENWEST Ltd., Portland, Ore., for a winning series of newsletters in the ongoing communications category for small plans.
The newsletter Frank Russell wrote for its own employees also was a winner among small plans.
Sometimes, the company produced some of the winning materials in-house. Such was the case with home shopping network QVC Inc., West Chester, Pa. QVC won third in initial print campaigns among large companies; QVC staff designed and wrote 80% of the award-winning program; its record keeper, CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services, Hartford, Conn., wrote the summary plan description.
While QVC did not win an award for its video, the film was singled out by some judges because it highlighted the company's TV business. In fact, the video took the form of a QVC television show, using one of the network's on-air presenters, whom every employee would recognize.
CIGNA scripted the QVC video, but the company took care of the filming and production, using internal experience.
Encouraging other companies
P&I's awards recognize sponsors' efforts to educate their employees about the complexities of investing their defined contribution plan assets, and the importance of saving enough for retirement.
The contest attempts to identify the best practices in investment education. By example, it is hoped that other companies are encouraged to fine-tune their education programs and to demand better quality materials from their vendors.
Other award winners and their vendors were:
Scripps Howard Inc., Cincinnati, which received help from The Vanguard Group of Investment Cos., Valley Forge, Pa., won second place for initial print among large companies.
Bertelsmann Inc./Bertelsmann Music Group, with help from William M. Mercer, placed second among midsized companies in the initial print category. Both are in New York.
J.P. Morgan & Co., New York, won top honors in ongoing communications by large plans. The program was developed in-house.
Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Florham Park, N.J., took third place in ongoing communications among large plans, with help from Frank Russell.
Compaq Computer, Houston, tied for second among big plans for its video, which was prepared in conjunction with Vanguard.
For plans with less than 5,000 participants, the education video from Waban Inc., Natick, Mass., prepared collaboratively with American Express, tied for first place.
Malcolm Pirnie Inc., White Plains, N.Y., took third place in the video category for small plans. Its video was developed with T. Rowe Price Retirement Plan Services, Baltimore.
In addition to P&I staff, the judges for the contest were: Donald J. Butt, director, trust investments, U S WEST Inc., Englewood, Colo.; Al Ferlazzo, manager, business communications, Xerox Corp., Stamford, Conn.; Robert Hunkeler, associate director, funds management and financing, Sandoz Corp., New York; Bruce Lasko, associate manager, Bell Communications Research Inc., Piscataway, N.J.; and Deborah Milne, research analyst, Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington.