The innovation award winners are:
Deborah Goldberg, treasurer and general receiver of Massachusetts, Boston;
Sandy Blair, director of retirement readiness, California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento; and
Katie Archer, director of global benefits, Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc., New Haven, Conn.
The excellence award winners are:
Aimee Dodson, thrive director, Movement Mortgage LLC, Indian Lands, S.C.;
Cliff York, head of pensions and benefits, Americas, at BP PLC, Houston;
Nora Alvarado, manager of health and welfare administration and deferred compensation, Employees Retirement System of Texas, Austin; and
Kathleen Long, vice president for human resources, The Farfield Co., Lititz, Pa.
Massachusetts focused on providing a greater opportunity to employees who have been left out of the institutional defined contribution system. In early October, it launched a program that allows employees of small non-profit organizations — those with 20 or fewer employees — to participate in a multiple employer 401(k) plan. The state is the MEP sponsor, the named fiduciary and the plan administrator — an onerous task if each small organization wanted to act on its own.
"This is a well-conceived program to an underserved market, very small employers," one judge wrote.
CalSTRS improved its unique effort to help 403(b) plan participants cope with the mass of information in a complex and crowded market — 58 vendors provide 169 products with more than 5,000 investment options for 403(b) plans.
It restructured its 403bCompare program to offer clearer information — not advice — about the many providers and products by updating and revising the 403bCompare website. By searching, a participant can find information about average expense ratios, fees and surrender periods for annuities, for example. The website also tells participants if a sales representative earns a commission.
"The complete compendium of investment options is a great way to help participants comparison shop across all of the available investment options," one judge wrote. "The fee comparisons are helpful, too."
Alexion Pharmaceuticals was recognized for tailoring a retirement readiness review that takes into consideration the different countries where company employees work. The review includes metrics such as employees' average life expectancy, average cost-of-living data, assumed outside savings rate and retirement income as a percentage of pre-retirement earnings adjusted to the different DC plans in the various countries.
"I think this is an important topic," one judge wrote. "It's one that many plan sponsors struggle with — both measuring whether participants are saving enough for retirement and if the plan design allows sufficient opportunity for them to be retirement ready."