Market Overview

Plan Sponsors' Top Concern Shifts from Reducing Plan Costs to Helping Employees Prepare for Retirement


Ninth Annual Fidelity® Plan Sponsor
Attitudes Study Finds:

  • 82 Percent of Plan Sponsors Reported Changes in Plan Design, with
    29 Percent Implementing Automatic Increase and 26 Percent Implementing
    Automatic Enrollment
  • 83 Percent of Plan Sponsors Made Changes to Investment Menus, with
    1/3 Replacing an Underperforming Fund
  • 92 Percent of Plan Sponsors use Plan Advisors and Fewer Plan
    Sponsors are Actively Looking to Switch Their Plan Advisors Than in
    Previous Years

Fidelity Investments® today announced the results of its
ninth annual Plan Sponsor Attitudes Study, which revealed that the top
concern of plan sponsors was whether the plan was effectively preparing
employees for retirement financially (33 percent), whereas in 2017 the
main focus was on reducing business costs related to the plan (32
percent). To help employees achieve their savings goals, many sponsors
are making changes to plan design (82 percent) and investment menus (83
percent). The study, which began in 2008, surveyed employers who offer
retirement plans that use a wide variety of recordkeepers and have at
least 25 participants and $10 million in plan assets.1

Additionally, more plans than ever (92 percent) use plan advisors, and
the number of plan sponsors actively looking to switch their plan
advisors (22 percent this year), while historically high, is down
considerably from an all-time high of 38 percent last year. While last
year's potential regulatory changes were top of mind for plan sponsors,
this year, the top reason they hired advisors was to help improve their
plans (27 percent versus seven percent in 2017).

"We view the increased focus on driving plan participants' engagement
and savings rates as a positive shift," said Jordan Burgess, head of
specialist field sales overseeing defined contribution investment only
(DCIO) sales at Fidelity Institutional Asset Management®.
"Plan sponsors can work with advisors to identify ways to boost
retirement readiness for plan participants, in addition to leveraging
them as a resource to manage the challenges and costs of the plan."

As plan sponsors continue making changes to investment menus and plan
design, the reasoning behind those changes mirrors their overall focus
on retirement preparedness for participants. The reason for most plan
design changes was to increase employee participation or savings rates.
About one in three plan sponsors reported that they added or changed a
matching contribution (39 percent versus 25 percent in 2017), making
that the top change to plan design this year. Fifty-six percent of plan
sponsors made that change to increase employee participation and 47
percent did so to increase savings rates.

The top changes to investment menus included replacing an
underperforming fund (33 percent), adding an index fund (28 percent) and
adding a lower-cost class of shares (25 percent). Another emerging trend
for plan sponsors was the decision to add a managed account program,
with 23 percent of plan sponsors reporting that change.

Affecting Participant Outcomes
Plan sponsors remain
satisfied with their plan advisors (70 percent). Despite this stability,
it's important that advisors look for opportunities to stay competitive
against their peers. Given plan sponsors' focus on retirement readiness,
plan advisors can add value by sharing knowledge and opportunities to
help plan participants reach their goals in retirement:

  • Auto-enrollment, which ranked as the top plan design change
    last year at 42 percent, fell to 26 percent. With only about half of
    plans using auto-enrollment (51 percent), plan sponsors could be
    missing opportunities to encourage employees to save more.
    Auto-enrollment can improve participation rates from an average of 50
    percent to 87 percent.2 Unfortunately, six in 10 finance
    and HR associates participating in the survey reported concern that
    employees would not respond well to being automatically enrolled.
    However, 87 percent of employees stayed in plans with an
    auto-enrollment default of 5 percent or higher, and 68 percent
    reported being "very satisfied" with the feature. Encouragingly, 23
    percent of plans increased the auto-enrollment deferral rate and 29
    percent added an automatic increase program – important steps that can
    help employees reach Fidelity's recommended savings rate of 15 percent
    of their pretax income.
  • Retirement income goals are on the minds of plan sponsors –
    seven in 10 reported setting a goal for retirement income. Fidelity
    suggests 45 percent is a reasonable income replacement goal to help
    maintain a pre-retirement lifestyle throughout retirement, but 37
    percent of plan sponsors reported a goal of less than 40 percent. Plan
    advisors should consider making sure plan sponsors have goals in place
    as well as discuss an appropriate framework for setting these goals,
    such as target date solutions that are aligned with their plans'
    income replacement goals.
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) could increase firms' resources
    available to retirement plan participants. Sixty-five percent of plan
    sponsors stated that retirement plans compete for funding with health
    and other benefits. Sponsors considered health care to be the most
    important benefit for the company – even before retirement benefits.
    And, more than half (54 percent) of plan sponsors reported reducing or
    deferring spending on other benefits due to higher health care costs.
    However, 25 percent of plan sponsors still do not offer HSAs. About
    one-third (32 percent) of plan sponsors using an HSA said its primary
    value to the company is to lower health insurance costs through high
    deductible plans. Importantly, saving on health care costs could
    enable sponsors to allocate more resources to retirement plans.

Additional information on the survey as well as resources and tools –
including fund analytics and details on investment options – can be
found at

Fidelity Institutional Asset Management®,
Defined Contribution Investment Only (DCIO)

Institutional Asset Management® is a leading provider of
investment management and retirement services to defined contribution
professionals nationwide, supporting advisors, recordkeepers,
third-party administrators and plan sponsors in a collective effort to
help participants achieve better retirement outcomes. As a retirement
leader, Fidelity has deep knowledge of plans and participant behaviors.
The firm combines this knowledge with a legacy of asset management —62
percent of Fidelity's $2.5 trillion in managed assets are retirement
assets as of June 30, 2018— to become a key manager in the
investment-only arena with about $87.2 billion in total DCIO assets.

Plan Sponsor Attitudes Survey: Methodology
2018 Plan Sponsor Attitudes Survey was conducted in collaboration with
Harris Insights and Analytics, an independent market research company,
which conducted an online survey of 1,124 plan sponsors on behalf of
Fidelity during the month of February 2018. Fidelity Investments was not
identified as the survey sponsor. Respondents were identified as the
primary person responsible for managing their organization's 401(k)
plan. All plan sponsors confirmed their plans represented at least 25
participants and had at least $10 million in plan assets. Though the
survey is broad in scope the experiences of the plan sponsors
participating in the survey may not be representative of all plan
sponsors. Previous Fidelity surveys were conducted in 2008, 2010, 2012,
2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

About Fidelity Investments
mission is to inspire better futures and deliver better outcomes for the
customers and businesses we serve. With assets under administration of
$7.0 trillion, including managed assets of $2.5 trillion as of June 30,
2018, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of
customers: helping more than 27 million people invest their own life
savings, 23,000 businesses manage employee benefit programs, as well as
providing more than 12,500 financial advisory firms with investment and
technology solutions to invest their own clients' money. Privately held
for 70 years, Fidelity employs more than 40,000 associates who are
focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information
about Fidelity Investments, visit

The information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for
informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Unless otherwise
disclosed to you, any investment or management recommendation in this
document is not meant to be impartial investment advice or advice in a
fiduciary capacity, is intended to be educational and is not tailored to
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representatives have a financial interest in any investment alternatives
or transactions described in this document. Fidelity receives
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and products, and certain investment services. The compensation that is
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Management® (FIAM®) to investment professionals,
plan sponsors and institutional investors by Fidelity Investments
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© 2018 FMR LLC. All rights reserved.

1 Data presented here is based on the full 2018 survey
results. Other published or historical data may reflect different values
based on the criteria used, such as plan asset level or participant
2 Building Futures, data as of December 31, 2017.
Based on Fidelity analysis of 22,400 corporate defined contribution (DC)
plans (including advisor-sold DC) and 15.3 million participants as of
December 31, 2017. Fidelity's recordkept database of DC plans excludes
tax-exempt plans, nonqualified plans, and the FMR Co. plan.

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