March 2010

457 Plan Sponsor of the Year: Ohio Deferred Compensation

"We were big into fee disclosure before it really became an issue,” says Keith Overly, Executive Director of the Ohio Public Employees Deferred ­Compensation Program. “We think it is part of the value we provide, and part of our competitive advantage.”

457 Plan Sponsor of the Year Finalist: California State Teachers’ Retirement System

 “Especially in this market, risk became such a big issue for people,” says Ed Derman, Deputy CEO of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. For risk-focused 457 participants, CalSTRS gives them the chance to invest in one of 15 portfolios that blend the target-date and risk-based concepts: five target-date options, each with a conservative, moderate, and aggressive level.

403(b)/Nonprofit Plan Sponsor of the Year: Legacy Health System

 Though she says the success of Legacy Health Systems’ 403(b) program has little to do with her and is a collaboration of nine team members, as well as a partner provider and adviser, who understand the importance of the benefit and respond to employees every day, a conversation with Mary Ann Holbert, Director of Compensation and Benefits, Legacy Health Systems, would make it obvious to anyone the passion she has for the program and her job. “I want my legacy at Legacy to be that the employees really know and understand their benefits, and that it is easy for them to partic­ipate,” she exclaims.

457 Plan Sponsor of the Year Finalist: New Jersey Department of Treasury

 For New Jersey’s state deferred compensation plan, “the emphasis for the longest time was on, ‘Let’s keep the costs down,’” says Joseph Zisa, Chief of the Bureau of Defined Benefit & Contribution Plans Reporting at the State of New Jersey Department of the Treasury. That led the 457 to do plan administration in-house, and its fund expenses ran as low as eight to 10 basis points.

403(b)/Nonprofit Plan Sponsor of the Year Finalist: Nyack Hospital

 Perhaps one of the greatest testaments to the work Mary Shinick, Vice President, Human Resources, Nyack Hospital, and her team have done to shore up the hospital’s retirement program is the fact that they were nominated for PLANSPONSOR’s Plan Sponsor of the Year award not once, but twice, by representatives of a provider that actually lost some business as a result.

403(b)/Nonprofit Plan Sponsor of the Year Finalist: Champlain College

 Champlain College, founded in 1878, is located in the Hill Section of Burlington, Vermont, overlooking Lake Champlain. Just as impressive as that view is the college’s 403(b) plan, which boasts an astounding 94% participation rate among its roughly 300 eligible workers, a rate that David Provost, VP of Finance & Administration at the College, attributes to its education campaign.

Public Plan Sponsor of the Year: Texas Municipal Retirement System

 Measured against most public funds’ investment returns, the Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) had a great year in tumultuous 2008. The fund lost only 1.3%, recalls David Gavia, Acting Executive Director at the Austin-based fund. “Compared to our peers,” he says, “it was a phenomenal result.” Many public funds dropped in the 20% to 30% range that year.

Corporate Plan Sponsor of the Year Finalist: Thermo Fisher Scientific

 As part of a plan revamp intro­duced in January 2008, Waltham, Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific started matching 100% of an employee’s deferral, up to 6% of pay. The company also implemented automatic enrollment with a 6% default deferral for new hires in 2009, plus immediate eligibility and immediate vesting.

Corporate Plan Sponsor of the Year Finalist: Johnson & Johnson

 How does whole­sale insurer John­son & Johnson, Inc., achieve a 90% 401(k) participation rate without automatic enrollment? As a small company of just 140 employees, it facilitates a lot of one-on-one convincing. As recently as 2006, the participation rate at the Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina-based firm was just 69%.

And the Winners Are…

In this issue, it is my honor and privilege to share the experiences and examples of some of the nation’s best plan sponsors—including four that, in our assessment, are worthy to be called “Plan Sponsor of the Year.”

Promises Premises

Last month, the Pew Center on the States published a report titled “The Trillion Dollar Gap” that highlighted the apparent chasm between the potential obligations of the assorted pension and retiree health-care programs of the 50 states, and the money set aside to pay for them. In some respects, the portrayal was better than it might have been: For one thing, the analysis was based on plan year-ends that predated the Q4 2008 meltdown, and it focused only on state programs, rather than the assortment of local government programs.

Better Business

Study says investment “Help” makes a difference

War Stories – March 2010

We all have them: those front-line experiences that are inevitable when one deals with the variety—and sensitivity—of issues associated with human beings and critical life events. Sometimes those stories are tragic, sometimes they are bizarre, and sometimes—admit it—they are just plain funny.

Bells & Whistles – March 2010

Each month, Bells & Whistles highlights recent product introductions that plan sponsors­ may find of interest. More information on these announcements can be found on If you have a product announcement that you believe would be of interest to our ­readers, drop us a line at

Targeting Target Dates

Financial crisis triggers additional scrutiny of target-date offerings  

Reasonable Redoubt

Gerald George, et al., v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc., et al., Case 1:07-cv-01713

Debate Able

Similarities between the health-care debate and the retirement-income debate