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Defined Contribution

9 awarded Excellence and Innovation Awards from P&I

Nine winners from seven plans were announced Monday for the Excellence and Innovation Awards at the Pensions & Investments West Coast Defined Contribution conference in San Diego.

This is the seventh year P&I and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association have honored efforts by plan executives to enhance the retirement security of participants. This year, judges recognized two sponsors for innovation and five sponsors for excellence.

The innovation winners are:

Tobias Read, Oregon state treasurer, Salem, and chairman of the Oregon Retirement Savings Board. Under his leadership, Oregon launched the first state-based auto-individual retirement account program called OregonSaves, seeking to provide savings opportunities for as many as 1 million Oregon private-sector workers whose employers don't provide a retirement savings plan.

Marco Merz, director of defined contribution, and Arthur Guimaraes, chief operating officer, Office of the Chief Investment Officer of the Regents, University of California, Oakland. They supervised an 18-month overhaul of the University of California's Savings Program, which covers a 403(b) plan, 401(a) plan and 457(b) plan. The overhaul led to reduced costs, a streamlined investment menu, the white-labeling of its core lineup funds and an industry-rare use of collective investment trusts for its 403(b) plan.

The excellence winners were:

Mary Nell Billings, the Memphis, Tenn.-based senior director, global retirement programs for Hilton Worldwide. Under Ms. Billings leadership, Hilton worked with a several vendors to improve participants' access and understanding of plan features. Those efforts included an online financial education pilot program and a detailed analysis of participant behavior comparing action by different groups segmented by age and by business unit. In addition, Hilton targeted its communications, during its April financial literacy month, to different participants – non-savers, savers failing to take full advantage of the company match and those saving above the company match.

Kerstin Aiello, senior benefits manager, Synopsys Inc., Mountain View, Calif. Because many Synopsys employees are engineers and because "engineers like to test things," Ms. Aiello used an interactive quiz to educate participants about the company match, Roth conversions and the role of target-date funds, among other plan features. The goal was to present plan information quickly yet succinctly to drive greater participant engagement.

Diana Winalski, Stamford, Conn.-based head of 401(k) product management, International Paper Co. Seeking to encourage older participants to stay in two 401(k) plans and prepare for spending down their accounts, Ms. Winalski added a long bond option to the investment menu and contracted with Hueler Cos. Inc. to provide a service that allows participants to review various annuity options that they can choose when they retire. The former is offered to improve retirement payout rates and the latter is used to let participants investigate out-of-plan annuity options.

Lisa Montalvo, benefits division leader and plan administrator, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif., and Michelle Ryan, investment program manager, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M. Both used financial fitness "boot camps," offering classes such as paying for college, managing debt and preparing for retirement. The boot camps' presentations were tailored to employees at different stages in their careers.

Tricia Miyoshi, human resources manager, Package Pavement Co. Inc., Stormville, N.Y. In order to help employees better understand their retirement benefits, Ms. Miyoshi made annual education mandatory as the company focused not only on programs geared to different age groups but also on Spanish-speaking employees, who account for about 25% of the workforce.