Data and Research

Fixed-Fee Recordkeeping Arrangements Now the Majority

An NEPC survey finds 82% of DC plans have re-contracted their recordkeeping fees since 2013.

By Rebecca Moore | September 22, 2016
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The 11th Annual NEPC Defined Contribution Plan and Fee Survey finds the asset-weighted average expense ratio for defined contribution (DC) retirement plans is currently 0.42% versus the 2006 level of 0.57% when NEPC first conducted its study.

Since 2012, investment management fees have dropped from 52 basis points (bps) to 42 bps. Recordkeeping fees have declined from $92 per participant to $57 per participant.

Eighty-two percent of plans have re-contracted their recordkeeping fees since 2013, which has led 51% of plans with to have a fixed-fee recordkeeping arrangement, based on the findings.

In terms of plan design, the survey shows that the median number of plan investment options for participants is 22, the same as last year. Among those investment options, target-date funds (TDF) are still the cornerstone of defined contribution offerings, as these turnkey solutions are available in 94% of plans. Furthermore, 88% of plans use TDFs as their qualified default investment alternatives. While much has been written about the growing popularity of “passively managed” investment options, virtually no respondents in the survey are 100% passive.

The survey indicates that 34% of plans include passive TDFs and about 43% of plans have the makings of a passive tier to complement active options. The median number of passive core offerings is three, and 10% of plans added an index fund in 2015 as a new or replacement offering.

Lifetime income offerings are now offered by 5% of plans versus none in 2012. The percentage of plans offering stable value funds remains unchanged at 47%, the same level as 2012. Prevalence didn’t decline significantly following the credit crisis and it hasn’t increased as a result of low interest rates and money market reform.

In 2006, just one in four plans offered brokerage services, and this year nearly half (49%) of plans have this feature, with 54% offering full brokerage and 46% offering only mutual funds. However, only 1% of employees use this feature.

Company stock remains a fixture in retirement plans, offered in 28% of plans. Approximately 60% of public companies offer these securities.

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