Looking at User-Friendliness of Recordkeeper Websites

The ability to manage future investment allocations on websites provided by recordkeepers is very important to retirement plan participants, but a study found participants can be confused by terminology and frustrated by design features.

A positive participant website experience is something retirement plan sponsors want to make sure they are getting from their recordkeepers.

A study from Corporate Insight found 69% of participants deemed the ability to manage future investment allocations to be very or extremely important when rating the value of transaction types on recordkeeper websites. However, a more recent study found participants can be confused by terminology and frustrated by design features.

For example, one firm titles the transaction Change How My New Money Will Be Invested and the balloon tip states, “I want to make changes to how new money like contributions or rollovers are being invested.” The term “new money” confused multiple respondents. The majority of firms use the term “future contributions” in both titles and descriptions, which proved to be a strong indicator for respondents when choosing between transaction options.

In another example, multiple participants incorrectly selected one recordkeeper’s option, Investment Elections, from the Manage section of the main menu, which opens a page with information about participants’ current investment instructions. Participants did not expect the page to include a link to a data page, given its action-oriented name. Once they returned to the overview screen and scanned the options again, they all chose the correct option, Change Investments.

According to Corporate Insight’s report, participants consistently expressed a desire to view investment performance data in a manner that did not interfere with their ability to use the transactional interface. They also wanted the information to be statically available, as this makes it easier to compare funds. Thus, the overall consensus among respondents was that providing fund data directly on the interface is the most helpful, followed by new browser tabs or windows that house this data. One participant summed up the general sentiment by saying, “The performance data is really what I am using to make my decisions here, so I like being able to see it or open it in any way. But when I am using it, I should be able to compare funds.”

Participants all appreciated the asset allocation advice available on a few recordkeeper’s participant sites. However, when Corporate Insight asked participants to reallocate their investments to align with the provided recommendations, they consistently raised the same issue: the pie charts depicting suggested allocations were not viewable throughout the transactional interface. Following the advice on one recordkeeper’s site requires users to consistently open and close a lightbox, while following it on another’s requires users to continuously scroll up and down the page.

The study also found respondents preferred firms giving them the option to allocate by source, rather than requiring them to do so, a transactional feature 41% of the recordkeeper websites tested offered.

Organizational features are particularly important when it comes to future investment transactional interfaces, as many plans offer a litany of fund options, Corporate Insight says. Participants in its test consistently expressed frustration when investment lists were particularly long; long lists often made key interface features less findable. To help participants locate and browse funds, Corporate Insight says firms should organize funds by asset class, which 76% of recordkeepers tested do. Further, incorporating expandable sections can shorten potentially long fund lists, but only 18% of recordkeepers take this approach.

Information about how to obtain the July 2019 Corporate Insight Retirement Plan Monitor Report is here.