That is the principal finding of the Defined Contribution [DC] Plan & Fee Survey released by NEPC LLC. Survey researchers also noted that, while recordkeeping fees continue to be charged primarily through revenue-sharing arrangements or asset-based fees, they continue to fall despite rising asset balances.
The biggest drop in fee prices came among bundled providers offering plan reimbursement accounts as a strategy to retain and promote asset management businesses.
This year, the annual median total plans cost for plan sponsors clocked in at 0.53%, or 53 cents for every $100 in fund assets. That is a 2-basis-point drop from the 0.55% measured in 2012.
Annual weighted average expense ratios remained the same as found by last year’s survey, marked at 0.52% or 52 cents per $100 in fund assets.
Other notable changes include a $12 drop—from $92 to $80—this year in the annual median recordkeeping fees charged to plan participants. That is a drop of nearly 33% from the $118 median recordkeeping fee measured in 2006, when NEPC first conducted the survey. At the time, the median weighted average expense ratio stood at 0.57%.
Researchers used the data to draw some qualitative conclusions, as well.
Plan sponsors, they argued, should regularly asses the contracts they have in place to evaluate whether service levels could be impacted by the drop in fee averages and whether fee changes represent actual savings to participants or merely a shifting of costs.
Additional information about the study’s results and methodology can be found here.