WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. --Dole Food Co. Inc. executives selected 401k Forum Inc., San Francisco, to provide investment advice for 401(k) participants.
Dole has two plans, with total assets of $185 million. The $170 million plan for salaried employees has 3,500 participants; the $15 million hourly employees' plan has 1,500 participants.
Charlene Mims, director of employee benefits, said Dole will offer the Internet-based advice service to three or four divisions at a time, until all 5,000 participants in 10 divisions have access.
She explained part of the reasoning behind offering advice this way: "We want people to take the responsibility and move away from a paternalistic situation, but we hadn't given them the tools to help themselves."
Originally, Dole executives were concerned about liability, Ms. Mims said.
"Eventually we got comfortable. This is a tool and it should be evident that it is not Dole giving people the advice."
Dole executives concluded they were "better off giving people the advice than not," she added.
Company executives are taking several precautions to avoid any confusion about who is giving the advice.
Other than logging on to Dole's intranet site for a button to access 401k Forum's Internet Web site, all other dealings with 401k Forum and its Web site are independent of Dole. "Dole's logo is not out there. It looks and feels like a 401k Forum Web site," Ms. Mims said.
To change an allocation, participants must call the plan's voice response system or log on to the Dole plan's Web site. They cannot make any changes from the 401k Forum site.
Plan participants will be able to access the advice service from their home computers and from personal computers available for their use at work, said David Peckman, vice president of 401k Forum.
The software will not be on Dole's server, only on 401k Forum's, he added.
Dole has seven options in the 401(k) plan for salaried workers and six in the plan for hourly workers. Only the salaried plan has a company stock option, but the rest of the investment options are the same, Ms. Mims said.
American Capital Management Inc., New York, offers money market, balanced and international equity funds; Bankers Trust/ Deutsche Asset Management, New York, a stable value fund; Pacific Advisors LP, Newport Beach, Calif., a bond fund; and Fidelity Investments, Boston, a growth fund.
The company match is in cash, but varies between the two plans. Dole contributes 100% up to the first 3% for participants in the salaried plan. In the hourly plan, the match is 50% up to the first 6% with a maximum of 3%. In addition, Dole automatically contributes another 2% of salary for each hourly employee.
Hourly employees receive a bigger company contribution because only salaried employees are eligible for Dole's $275 million defined benefit plan, Ms. Mims said.