Consultants Expect ‘New Normal’ Economy

March 7, 2011 ( – Investment consultants, expecting lower capital market returns and more volatility, support broader asset diversification and custom target-date strategies for defined contribution plans.

A news release said that was the bottom line of a new PIMCO survey. Almost two-thirds of consultants expect a continuing “new normal” economic environment of lower capital market returns and similar or higher volatility than in the past, according to PIMCO. The majority of consultants believe that active investment management is important for all asset classes surveyed except large-cap U.S. equity, while a slight majority (55%) of consultants also believe that tactical asset allocation within a target-date strategy is at least somewhat important.

Almost all of the consultants (89%) surveyed offer custom target-date consulting services to their clients. In fact, 46% of consultants said that creating custom glide path structures is one of their top areas of business growth. What’s more, 90% believe that varying company demographics should drive unique glide paths, especially for larger organizations. Whether it be designing a custom strategy or selecting a packaged product, evaluating the glide path structure was ranked by consultants as the most important selection criterion.

Overall, consultants reported continued growth in their defined contribution businesses.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Consultants are split evenly on whether stable value will grow or decline in prevalence, with the vast majority (82%) anticipating plan sponsors to evaluate the investment managers underlying their stable value offerings.
  • About 78% of consultants believe their clients prefer to retain retiree assets in their plan, and about a third (32%) expect their clients to add a “deemed IRA” to their plans, allowing the consolidation of participant and spousal IRAs within the plan.
  • Most consultants (85%) said the addition of a retirement income option is likely in the next two years, yet most noted that discussions are moving slowly.