Voya's Ms. Lavallee also attributes the company's asset growth mostly to its sales efforts. "We had several large record-keeping wins in the corporate space as well as in the government space that brought in close to 600,000 net new participants," she said.
Each of the three asset gainers gave different reasons for their success in growing organically. Voya said that its growth was tied to the fact that it serves all size plans from the smallest up to the largest.
"We've seen the capabilities that we continue to invest in is really resonating in all size markets," Ms. Lavallee said.
Empower's Mr. Murphy also attributed the company's asset growth to its ability to compete in all markets but added that technology also played a role. The company "invested a lot in technology both on the front end" for its customers and "on the back end in terms of infrastructure and data security," a factor that Mr. Murphy said helped drive Empower's growth.
Fidelity similarly chalked up its success to its technology and user experience. The record keeper's heavy investment in technology helped "keep the people's data secure," while also "providing for an excellent user experience when people log into a web-based channel," Mr. Salerno said. He declined to disclose how much the company invested in technology, saying it does not publicly provide the data.
Other record keepers are also using technology in new ways to gain a competitive edge. Vanguard Group Inc., the fourth-largest record keeper with $592.7 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, last year partnered with Infosys Ltd. of India to deliver what it called a "technology-driven approach to plan administration." The deal essentially outsources Vanguard's record-keeping technology operations to Infosys.
John James, managing director and head of Vanguard Institutional Investor Group in Malvern, Pa., said the relationship will allow Vanguard to evolve its record-keeping capabilities and platform to a "fully cloud-based solution" that has already yielded positive results, including the rollout of a new participant website featuring behavior-based navigation.
"Our agile approach to the new participant site means that we'll continuously roll out new functionality and tools throughout 2021 and beyond," Mr. James said.
To drive growth going forward, record keepers are also broadening their services beyond retirement plans and plunging into financial wellness initiatives. The need for record keepers to differentiate themselves amid ongoing downward pressure on pricing is leading many companies to "come up with more enhanced services," Callan's Ms. McAllister said.
"We've seen a lot more focus on financial wellness in general," she said, adding that services can range from "basic financial wellness education and guidance for participants" to guidance on emergency savings, budgeting and student loans.
Fidelity, for one, is ramping up its financial wellness offerings in the areas of student debt services as well as employee-giving services for plan sponsors whose participants have philanthropic interests, Mr. Salerno said. "Financial wellness and total well-being are key areas for us," he said.
Voya, too, is broadening its services beyond retirement plan services. Earlier this year, it launched an emergency savings program for employers to add to their benefit packages and now even offers caregiver-support services through a partnership with Wellthy, an organization that provides concierge support to families with complex caregiving needs.
"We want to help employers think about the breadth of needs and issues that their employees are facing," Voya's Ms. Lavallee said.
Empower is also reinforcing efforts to provide its 12 million participants with what Mr. Murphy called a "more holistic seamless experience that transcends retirement."
"Many of our customers have other goals, whether it's college savings, emergency savings or health-care savings," he said. "The more we can help them think through that decision matrix and help them achieve the level of savings they're looking for, the better."