Tom Topik
Human Resources Officer
  • Plan(s)
    403(b)
  • Total Plan Assets
    $632MM
  • Number of Participants
    6,182
  • Participation Rate
    96%
  • Average Deferral Rate
    10.6%
  • Default Deferral Rate
    9.2%
  • Default Investment
    InvestMap model portfolios from Milliman
  • Automatic Enrollment
  • Automatic Escalation
  • Employer Contribution
    8.1% + 12% of company profits allocated pro-rata based on compensation
  • Provider(s)
    Recordkeeper, Milliman; Adviser, Cook Street
  • Financial Wellness Educator(s)
    MetLife Retirewise + adviser-led meetings


Eligible employees are automatically enrolled at a 9.2% deferral rate.

ARUP Laboratories, headquartered in Salt Lake City, is a nonprofit enterprise of the University of Utah that specializes in lab testing for more than 4,000 different types of diseases. This national reference lab, operated by Associated Regional and University Pathologists, Inc. (ARUP), has been in business since 1984.

Employees are mostly lab technicians, with some others in sales and marketing roles. Tom Topik, human resources (HR) officer, says there are a lot of entry level employees who process samples, but most employees are middle-income.

ARUP’s 403(b) plan started at the organization’s inception, and, from that time, leaders made clear it would be the foundation of the benefits the organization offers. “The plan’s generosity was no accident—the founders decided it would be generous,” Topik says.

Eligible employees are automatically enrolled in the plan at a 9.2% deferral rate, and they can choose automatic escalation at either 1% or 2% each year up to a maximum deferral rate of 40%. In addition, 12% of company profits each year are allocated to participant accounts and each employee gets an employer contribution of 8.1% of their salary.

“We’ve taken every step possible to maximize employees’ retirement savings,” Topik says. “We started auto-enrollment in 2005 and felt like we were pioneers.” He adds that staff meet with each new employee to discuss the importance of keeping one’s deferral rate at the default and send communications at the time employees receive raises telling them it’s a good time to increase contributions to the plan. “We try to make an ongoing effort to educate employees as to importance of contributing to their retirement accounts,” Topik says.

He says participants used to be defaulted into risk-based asset-allocation funds, but it was a challenge to make sure the pre-retirees were moving to more conservative investments. So ARUP changed its default investment to Milliman’s InvestMap. It is an age-based, asset-allocation strategy using the core funds held within the plan, with a glide path that automatically changes based on a frequency defined by the plan sponsor and its adviser—i.e., yearly or at pre-defined age bands.

Last July, ARUP implemented a re-enrollment, bumping those participants deferring less than the default up to 9.2% and putting them into the InvestMap program. Topik says the re-enrollment will be an annual action.

In another effort to maximize employees’ retirement savings, 15 years ago, ARUP’s plan committee decided it would no longer offer actively managed funds. “This was put into our investment policy statement [IPS], which we follow very closely,” Topik says. The plan has 10 passively managed indexed funds from which participants can choose.

“We just couldn’t ignore the fact that it would save on fees for employees,” Topik says, adding that the plan’s fees and fee transparency efforts also set ARUP apart from other plan sponsors. “Our all-in fee is 11 basis points. We’ve never seen another plan with fees that low,” he says. “And every year for more than a decade, we’ve sent out a fee disclosure letter to participants. We were doing so before it was required.”

Topik says ARUP’s plan is a true auto-pilot plan. “Employees can take action if they want to, but they don’t need to. It relieves a lot of stress about what to do; they are not retirement experts. Once employees join our company, even if they don’t do a thing, they can work for 20 years and have a nice nest egg.”

Rebecca Moore

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