Calling all plan sponsors who are tech-savvy, or at least successfully used the new media to educate defined contribution participants on sound investment practice.
For the first time in seeking entrants for the P&I Defined Contribution Investment Education Awards, Pensions & Investments is including a "new media" category for campaigns using the intranet, Internet or e-mail.
The deadline for all entries in this, the seventh annual competition, is Oct. 16.
Plan sponsors that have created educational masterpieces -- or at least have helped plan participants understand the investment process -- are encouraged to enter. The competition is open to all defined contribution plans, corporate, public or union and will be judged at P&I's Chicago office by professionals from all segments of the defined contribution industry. Awards will be announced at P&I's Defined Contribution Conference, March 12-14.
The newest category, new media, covers use of an intranet, the Internet or e-mail to communicate initial investment education, enrollment information for new employees in an existing plan, information encouraging employees to participate in their company's plan or on-going investment education. Successful entrants will have used technology in a creative way to communicate both elementary and more advanced investment principles, benefits of plan participation or advantages of increasing plan contribution rates. Entries should strongly identify with the plan sponsor. All-purpose service provider web pages are discouraged.
Entries in this category should be accompanied by two printed copies highlighting the campaign and, if the intranet or Internet was used, the design of the homepage or website.
In order to be judged, plan sponsors must give P&I access to the information with a temporary user ID and password that would be valid Oct. 16 through Dec. 18.
The other award categories are:
* Printed material -- initial education brochures that introduce existing employees to the investment options and plan features of a new or modified plan, or that introduce new employees to the investment options and plan features of an existing plan;
* Video, initial education -- videos that introduce employees to the investment options or plan features of a new or modified plan, focusing on the investment process;
* Video -- videos that introduce new employees to an existing plan or are aimed at boosting participation or employee deferral rates; and
* Special projects -- print media designed to allow sponsors to showcase special investment education and communication campaigns launched in the past year.
While judges will consider only entries from plan sponsors, these materials may be prepared internally or with assistance from outside vendors. Previous winners may re-enter, but only with new materials.
Although imagination and originality distinguished many of last year's winners, entries do not have to be gimmicky to win; nor do they need to be elaborate or expensively produced. Judges look most to educational content.
Among the plan sponsors awarded top honors in the print category last year was the Colorado County Officials and Employees Retirement Association, the only winner to design its education materials in-house.
Materials should be appealing and provide practical information that effectively meets the needs of a diverse employee group. Potential entrants are urged to submit only materials that thoroughly and effectively communicate key investment and savings concepts. Entries should be designed specifically for the plan sponsor and should clearly identify the sponsor and the plan's unique features.
The following should be covered: an emphasis on early and regular saving; the power of compounding; the value of matching and dollar cost averaging in accumulating a retirement nest egg; an analysis of the dangers of inflation, as well as a detailed explanation of risk and the relationship between risk and return; and a discussion of the value of diversification as a tool for reducing volatility.
Judges also will be looking for:
* programs designed to improve the investment and savings habits of participants and to help them develop a disciplined approach to retirement planning;
* campaigns addressing unique employee demographics;
* programs considering time and workplace constraints; and
* program results -- like a campaign that helped improve overall participation rates, increased participants' deferral rates or helped participants diversify their investments.
All entries must be accompanied by an official entry form, which may be photocopied. Printed materials should not be attached to boards. Contestants will be judged against their peers of a similar size and employee base.