Who’s Still Working For You?: Plan Sponsor Council of America

In a series of articles, PLANSPONSOR is checking in with industry groups to see what work they have done, and will do, for retirement and health plan sponsors as the pandemic continues and beyond.

The Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) was launched in 1947 and, 70 years after its inception, became part of the American Retirement Association (ARA) on December 29, 2017.

Its mission did not change, though.

“Our number one focus is education,” says Will Hansen, chief government affairs officer of the ARA and executive director of the PSCA. “We’re an education organization that just happens to advocate.”

Hansen says that two years ago, the PSCA launched a new education credential for plan sponsors, the Certified Plan Sponsor Professional (CPSP) program. Plan sponsors who complete the credential go through a virtual nine-week program, which Hansen calls “intensive.”

“They really get into the weeds of administering a retirement plan and learn more about understanding fiduciary duty,” he says. Hansen explains that there are eight modules in areas such as fiduciary duty and plan operations, and the last week is a review week. “We are now nearing 1,000 plan sponsors who have received this credential,” he notes. The course is free.

Hansen says the first year of the program was a “soft launch,” but it ramped up last year during the height of the pandemic because its virtual classrooms were exactly what sponsors needed at the time.

The pandemic has also heightened the success of quarterly virtual roundtables hosted by the PSCA that allow plan sponsors to get together and talk about whatever is on their minds without the distraction of having service providers in the room.

Advocacy Efforts

When it comes to advocacy, Hansen says there is no disagreement right now between the two groups on the important issues, but if there was any conflict, the PSCA would separate itself from the ARA and take its own stance.

A key difference, he says, is that PSCA members already offer retirement plans, so expanding coverage is not a legislative priority, “but we of course support the public policy behind what those provisions will do.”

Hansen adds that the PSCA is advocating for one piece of proposed legislation and against another.

The PSCA supports the student loan provision in the Securing a Strong Retirement Act—referred to as SECURE 2.0, a reference to 2019’s Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act—which allows an employer to put money into a defined contribution (DC) plan for an employee based on the amount the individual is repaying in student loans.

The council is also advocating for change to a provision that Hansen says would add another layer of rules to those that already exist that plan sponsors would have to follow on how they disclose required documents—including to whom they are disclosed and by what delivery method.

Currently, he explains, there are two sets of rules, one from the Department of Labor (DOL) and one from the IRS which apply to different disclosures and “don’t match up. It’s how you determine whether a person receives a form on paper or electronically. It would be easier on both the participant and plan sponsor if one set of rules was applicable to all required disclosures,” he says.

Membership Changes

Hansen adds that the PSCA has shifted its membership model, relying less on corporate members and more on individual members, who come in through the CPSP credential.

“You automatically become a member” after taking the course, he says. “It’s a better strategy. Corporate budgets are tight, and it’s easier for people to maintain their own memberships instead of being in a company’s HR [human resources] budget. For us, it’s easier to track members. People change jobs.”