Technology played a prominent role in the 2023 Pensions & Investments Eddy Awards honoring education and communications by defined contribution sponsors in the corporate, public and not-for-profit worlds.
Sponsors used technology to expand or initiate communications in a post-pandemic world where many employees worked remotely and some on-site services and events were curtailed or canceled.
Technology also helped sponsors cope with the challenges of geography, trying to reach employees and retirees across many states and large territories within states.
And technology also was necessary to improve communications and education by sponsors addressing the different needs of tens of thousands of employees or, in some cases, thousands of employers.
The awards were presented March 14 at the P&I annual Defined Contribution East conference in Orlando, Fla.
Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Cuyamaca Mountains to the Anza-Borrego Desert, San Diego County has embraced digital content as it tries to reach 23,000 participants living in a county that is slightly bigger in area than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
When the pandemic struck, county officials turned to digital education because "we felt we could reach more employees," explained Philip Blair, manager of the deferred compensation program at the County of San Diego – Tax Collector's Office.
In the past, the deferred compensation plan held webinars plus an annual in-person event at a centralized location where participants could meet with 20 vendors. "We haven't done that since the pandemic," said Mr. Blair, whose plan won first place in the ongoing investment education category for public plans with more than 5,000 participants.
The winning entry (Nationwide Retirement Solutions was the service provider) was called Learn to Earn, a virtual event that ran from October 2021 through January 2022, focusing on improving participants' understanding of appropriate asset allocation.
It featured videos ranging from fundamental explanations, such as "What's a target-date fund?" to discussions of investment strategies, such as "Do it myself or do it for me."
Learn to Earn also provided a 30-minute asset allocation video workshop, a PDF description of investment options and a link to schedule a meeting with an investment adviser.
And there were quizzes as well as an interactive video that used gardening analogies — weeding and pruning, for example, represented account balancing — that helped a participant grow a garden as a proxy for building a balanced portfolio.
"Gamification was good for people who have less financial literacy," Mr. Blair said. "We wanted to make it approachable for people who might be intimidated."
"The virtual education was comprehensive, focused and playful," wrote one judge.