As the National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary, its history includes three different names, visits by members to two White House bill-signing ceremonies and one Elvis impersonator.
Ronnie E. Nichols is the Elvis impersonator. Mr. Nichols, a consultant to Great-West Retirement Services, has attended every NAGDCA annual conference since the first in 1980, and he's getting ready for the next one in Philadelphia Sept. 11-15.
“In 1980, we were sort of an ad hoc group that was strictly for state governments,” said Mr. Nichols, who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He now is a national retiree advocate for Great-West, and was a vice president between 1999 and 2004.
The first conference “was kind of a circus. There was a carnival barker-type environment as product providers were trying to attract potential clients,” he said.
The members quickly decided to establish rules of conduct “because we wanted this to be a place for education — not a place to hawk our wares,” said Mr. Nichols.
From that first meeting in Chicago, the organization has grown in size and scope — from representatives of state retirement programs focusing on governmental 457(b) plans to a broader group of leaders of municipal programs with responsibilities for 403(b) and other DC plans as well.
The association's growth is reflected in its different names. The group was first called the National Association of State Deferred Compensation Administrators. In 1986, the name was changed to the National Association of Government Deferred Compensation Administrators, which, luck would have it, means the group didn't have to alter its acronym when the name was changed in 2000 to its current form.
NAGDCA members say the association's strengths are education and legislation. “This is an opportunity for idea-sharing,” said Mr. Nichols. “Our biggest achievement is more rights for employees.”
Education can take many forms, including webcasts on topics ranging from stable value funds to target-date funds to updates on Labor Department rules on fee disclosure. NAGDCA made its debut on YouTube in 2008, and the association's lobbying played a role in getting Congress to pass annual resolutions since 2006 supporting “National Save for Retirement Week.”
The inflection point for NAGDCA's political influence occurred when the association successfully lobbied for governmental 457(b) plan assets to be held in trust for participants and beneficiaries. rather than be considered assets of their employers.
Prior to the passage of a 1996 law, participants in these tax-deferred compensation plans lacked the same protection has participants in other defined contribution plans, said Ed Lilly, current NAGDCA president and executive director of the $11 billion New York State Deferred Compensation Plan, Albany.
“NAGDCA wanted to make sure that creditors of employers couldn't go after an individual's money,” said Mr. Lilly, noting that the fear of such action was heightened in late 1994, when Orange County, Calif., declared bankruptcy.