An annual award program that recognizes retirement plan sponsors that show a commitment to their participants’ financial health and retirement success. The award is given in many categories to recognize all plan types, so any plan sponsor can be eligible. Nominations are made in the fall, finalists are announced in January, and winners are announced in March.

Each year, the editors of PLANSPONSOR magazine recognize leaders in retirement plan best practices—plan sponsors that aim to provide more secure financial outcomes for U.S. workers.

To be considered, a sponsor must first be recommended for the award. Nominations are accepted from across the industry—including those from providers, advisers, consultants, actuaries, attorneys, third-party administrators (TPAs), employees and colleagues. All nominees are then asked to complete an online form, supplying details about the plan’s administration, participant statistics and data such as participation rates. A committee of PLANSPONSOR editors reviews the submissions and selects the winners and finalists from among the various categories.

Considering the breadth and depth of retirement programs available today, this year’s award is given in nine categories, to allow for more accurate comparisons across plan types and sizes: Corporate 401(k) <$15MM; Corporate 401(k) $15MM – <$25MM; Corporate 401(k) $25MM – <$50MM; Corporate 401(k) $50MM – <$200MM; Corporate 401(k) $200MM-$1B; Corporate 401(k) >$1B; Public Defined Contribution (DC); 403(b); and Total Retirement Offering. 

Although many of the criteria for selection are difficult to quantify, generally 2016’s Plan Sponsors of the Year are all working to improve the retirement readiness of their participants. They use innovative plan design features or participant education strategies; have impressive plan metrics, with some exceptions where, due to circumstances, this may not be the case; and are focused on ensuring the efficiency of their plan’s administration. Each plan sponsor recognized has a story of success—and yet, many of these sponsors still consider their plan to be a work in progress. —PS

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