Retirement Plan Monitor Awards: Changes in Participant Priorities and Behavior Lead to Podium Shake Up

by on Jan 25, 2017

This year, the Retirement Plan Monitor Awards Report featured much more turnover among podium winners than in previous years, due in part to revamped criteria importance weightings. These weightings are largely determined by the results of Corporate Insight’s DC participant surveys, which had more than 1,500 respondents this year and took a deeper dive into certain topics than when we last performed the survey in 2013. The results revealed considerable changes with respect to the features deemed most important and the activities most frequently performed on retirement sites. These changes informed out criteria in the six categories evaluated in the report: Participant Homepage, Participant Account Data, Transaction Capabilities, Educational Resources and Mobile Participant Experience.

This year’s survey asked additional questions about the activities participants perform on mobile platforms and the mobile features most important to them. This additional data, coupled with the answers to existing mobile questions, helped to revamp the importance weightings of existing and new criteria in the Mobile Participant Experience category. For example, among individuals who said they accessed their plans via mobile devices over the previous six months, phone app and mobile site usage rose from 82% to 93% and from 9% to 15%, respectively, while tablet app usage remained at 29%. We therefore increased the importance weightings of the overall phone app and mobile site experience accordingly, which contributed to Vanguard’s passing of T. Rowe Price to earn the sole silver medal this year.

The top 15 features most commonly identified by participants as “very important” or “extremely important” also saw a considerable amount of change, impacting the Participant Account Data category. Five new features to make the 2016 list were account-information-related: ability to view recent account activity, YTD rate of return, plan fees, general holdings-level performance and the ability to view performance of individual holdings across multiple timeframes. These features replaced transaction confirmations, quarterly statements, two account-history-related features and customer service response time. As a result, we increased the relative importance of the ability to view holdings performance for multiple timeframes and incorporated account documents into the Participant Account Data. This, combined with the increased relative importance of retirement income projection data, were major factors that helped Empower Retirement edge out T. Rowe Price and Vanguard for the top podium position.

Empower Retirement Participant Homepage – My Estimated Retirement Income Section

While the 2013 version of the study asked participants which transactions they completed within the previous six months, the 2016 version also asked how important they deemed each transaction type. The data showed that participants place the highest value on rollovers, contribution rate changes and future investment election management capabilities, followed by fund exchanges and withdrawals. As a result of the increased emphasis on rollover capabilities, John Hancock earned a silver medal in the Transaction Capabilities category as the firm offers four dedicated, user-friendly processes for various rollover types.

John Hancock Rollover Options

For more information and to access a free slide deck highlighting the gold medal winners in all six categories of this Retirement Plan Monitor Awards Report, click here.