The Changing Shape of DB and DC Administration

Practically all large market organizations have already outsourced defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) administration. Therefore, DB and DC administration contract activity is more about competitive wins.  When reading these contract award announcements, the first question I ask myself is, why did the client change service providers?

Some clients have a preference in the type of vendor used due to the large-scale financial worth of these portfolios. Some client executives prefer the independence of a non-financial administrator like Aon Hewitt, ACS/Xerox, or Mercer, while others prefer the industry closeness of a financial-type provider like Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, or Vanguard.

Other reasons for changing vendors include client dissatisfaction with the existing service or wanting to obtain a lower price or perhaps both.  Another cause revolves around vendor consolidation for both total retirement outsourcing (TRO) and total benefits outsourcing (TBO), which also includes health and welfare (H&W) administration. Consolidation is driven by a desire to reduce the number of vendors to a select few. Mergers and acquisitions also add to consolidation as integration occurs.

Last year produced a string of TRO and TBO contract awards due to consolidation, including the following:

  • HP in North America: Fidelity became the exclusive TRO provider for HP, which had ~162,000 participants from EDS being served by other providers
  • Office Depot: Fidelity was awarded this new TBO contract from three different providers that had administered the 401(k), H&W, and stock plans.

With an estimated $11bn market at stake, both financial and non-financial administrators need to remain competitive in the TRO and even TBO space. As a result, benefits administrators are offering additional service features such as automatic enrollment and automatic contribution escalation for client-employers, and resources to educate participants so that they become more accountable for their retirement savings.

This strategy is reinforced by Aon Hewitt’s recent survey of 500 large market U.S. employers representing more than 12m employees. The survey found that just 4% of employers are very confident that their employees will retire with enough savings, down from 30% last year. Examples of services and solutions recently launched to create a competitive edge include:

  • Aon Hewitt’s DC advisory offering: providing online personalized advice and professional management with Financial Engines serving as a sub-advisor
  • ADP’s strategic advisory services group: helping clients maximize the value of in-depth benefits data and analysis
  • Mercer’s RetireTALK: an interactive website with hypothetical scenarios, designed to motivate and educate users on retirement planning
  • Fidelity’s myPlan tool: offering online retirement advice based on answers to a few questions.

The Aon Hewitt survey also found that only 10% of employers are very confident that their employees are taking accountability for their own retirement success.  The remaining issue then is how to encourage employees to utilize these services and solutions that are already available to them and which service provider will best help both the employer and employees achieve their goals.

Amy L. Gurchensky, Research Analyst, HRO, NelsonHall

 Interested in reading the latest HRO news from NelsonHall? Subscribe to our newsletter by emailing amy.gurchensky@nelson-hall.com with “HRO Insight” as the subject.

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