The defined contribution industry entered 2021 with a sense of constrained ambition but also with ideas about making permanent some changes necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Many sponsors that developed plans in 2019 for implementation in 2020 put them on hold to deal with the pandemic's impact on the economy, their businesses and employees' health.
Their planning for 2021 will be governed by a number of uncertainties — the pandemic's strength, the vaccines' effectiveness and the prospects of more federal aid.
"The elephant in the room is the pandemic," said David Amendola, the Stamford, Conn.-based consultant and senior director in the benefits and adviser compliance practice of Willis Towers Watson PLC.
When P&I interviewed Mr. Amendola 12 months ago for his outlook regarding 2020, he reported a flood of inquiries from sponsors about using 401(k) plans as a vehicle to help employees pay down student loan debt, referring to the program announced in mid-2018 by Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, Ill.