Thought Leadership

Forward Thinking

Published In November 2016 | Sponsored by Empower

Steve Jenks and Rich Linton of Empower Retirement talk with PLANSPONSOR about the technological revolution in retirement personalization.

PS: How is technology evolving?

Jenks: If we think about the world today and how fast it’s changing, retirement providers really need to leapfrog where we’ve been in the past. We know that a high percentage of Americans have a smartphone and 59% of people take in the majority of their news via social media.1 We need to think about meeting people where they are and being able to deliver a highly intuitive, easy experience.

PS: How can we use technology to better impact the lives of participants?

Jenks: One of the biggest changes we’re making is moving enrollment to mobile devices. By moving to a one-click enrollment process where people on their phone can very simply sign up, we’re seeing improved results over that classic 40-page booklet that gets sent out and ends up in a circular file.

It’s the same type of concept with signing up for a beneficiary. We can make it an intuitive, easy experience that somebody can do on the phone when they have time. Another area we’re taking a close look at is helping folks understand their overall financial situation. We know that retirement plan decisions and how much we’re able to save for retirement are often driven by how somebody feels about their month-to-month financial situation.

PS: How can we use technology to improve and evolve plan service?

Linton: Our case management services are an excellent example of what we can do for a participant. When a participant calls with a concern or with an issue, they want to talk to one person, and they only want to have to call once. Our ability to assign that work to a dedicated individual aligned to that issue really allows our participants to feel confident about the service they’re getting and feel like their issues are being resolved completely. In fact, in the recent Cogent Retirement Planscape 2016 survey of plan sponsors, Empower was rated #1 in plan sponsor service and support — largely because of these tools and services.

PS: We know that different generations use and approach technology in various ways. How do you modernize elements to make them relevant to each generation?

Jenks: Let’s start out with one of the most important areas, which is health. A large percentage of Americans have some type of personalized healthcare app on their phone. One of the services we offer is called the “health cost estimator,” and we found this has particular appeal to the Baby Boom generation. They’re able to look and see a personalized projection of their healthcare expenses in retirement. They can also look at what their monthly retirement income is going to be, compare it to those monthly health costs, and decide whether or not they need to alter their savings behavior.

For younger Americans, we find that peer comparison is very effective. Individuals can see what the top 10% of savers in their age, income, and gender group are doing. That gives them a point of comparison to the best, and they can emulate that behavior.

One of the new offerings we have is called a dynamic qualified default investment alternative [QDIA]. We’re recognizing that younger individuals, who are typically earlier in their savings journey and have fewer complications in their lives, can be well-served by a product such as a target date fund [TDF]. With a dynamic QDIA, we can move folks from a target date fund to something like a managed account as their situations become more complex.

PS: How do you connect with the non-tech-savvy participant?

Linton: Having dedicated expert individuals, whether they’re talking to the sponsor or the participant, is critically important. When participants call in, we make sure to have the right information coming up and an expert talking. That allows us to deliver a 97% first-call resolution rate, which we think is critically important.

PS: Where do we take technology from here?

Jenks: We’ve received a great response on our recently introduced Apple Watch app, where people can manage their savings for retirement as they’re walking down the street.

Linton: It’s about proactive communication and speed-of-service delivery. For example, providing text notices when a participant has called in and asked for funds, and proactively texting them when those funds are on their way to them. With speed-of-service delivery, it’s about helping a participant enroll in their plan as quickly as possible with a one-click agent-assisted enrollment process that gets them in, signed up, and on their way.


1 Source: Pew Research Center, Journalism & Media, The Modern New Consumer: Pathways to news, July 2016

Empower Retirement refers to the products and services offered in the retirement markets by Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company (GWL&A), Corporate Headquarters: Greenwood Village, CO; Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company of New York, Home Office: NY, NY; and their subsidiaries and affiliates. The trademarks, logos, service marks and design elements used are owned by GWL&A. AM76986 10/2016