BofA Merrill Lynch Sees Uptick in Participant Contributions, Use of Advice

May 18, 2010 ( - Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Retirement & Benefit Plan Services quarterly report of activities within its proprietary 401(k) plan business shows an increase in total plan assets to $85.8 billion from $82 billion as of year-end 2009 due to market recovery, increased contributions by participants, and new business commitments.

A summary of findings says 132,540 employees took a positive savings action in their 401(k) plan accounts as of Q1 2010, compared to 128,100 in Q1 2009. Of all participants who have taken some type of savings action in 2010, 66% took a positive action (started or increased saving) and 34% who took a negative action (stopped or decreased saving) compared to 54% who took a positive action and 46% who took a negative action in Q1 2009.   

Among total plan participants who took a positive action, 47% started contributing to their plans and 53% increased contributions to their plans. The number of existing plan participants who increased their contribution rate in Q1 2010 was 35% higher than the number of plan participants who increased their rate in Q1 2009.   

The number of participants who stopped contributing to their plans in Q1 2010 was 25% lower than Q1 2009, and the number of participants who decreased their contribution in Q1 2010 was 23% lower than Q1 2009.   

The data also shows a 19% increase in plan usage of Advice Access, with nearly 340 plan sponsors now live with this service. In addition, there was a 64% increase in participants accessing advice, and 49% increase in participants receiving specific advice within their 401(k) accounts since Q1 2009.  

The year-over-year growth rate for plan usage of auto enrollment was 9%, and for auto increase was 13%.  

The report includes data on 1,500 plan sponsors and nearly 1.4 million actively contributing plan participants.