Participant Service Tops Sponsor Priority List

November 13, 2001 ( - While providers fared well overall, less than a third of plan sponsor respondents say they are getting "excellent" client service, says PLAN SPONSOR's Fifth Annual Defined Contribution Survey.

All in all, participant care pulled a near “perfect” 6.66 ranking (a 7.0 suggests “extremely important”) in our largest-ever survey audience. Service to plan sponsors remained second-most important and has risen twice as much in the past two years as the participant focus.

Those priorities held across the board, regardless of plan size, and were notably higher than the third and fourth priorities, investment performance and financial strength.

As provider services go, “foundation” issues, accurate reporting, loan turnaround and range of options, appear to be strengths, with each earning a 6.0 rating or thereabouts, all solidly higher than last year’s evaluation. Internet services garnered a respectable 5.95%, and overall participant satisfaction was a strong 5.92%.

Who Are These Guys?

Nearly 2,400 plan sponsors representing over 6 million participants responded to our survey this year, running the gamut of plan sizes. In all, over $400 billion in plan assets were covered by these plans.

Human resources (HR) was responsible for running about two-thirds of the plans, with most of the remainder under the auspices of the finance department. However, over 40% of the plans with less than $5 million in assets were a finance responsibility.

Nearly all of the plans covered by the survey were valued daily (82.1%), about the same as last year. As with the prior year’s results, smaller plans were less likely to be daily (64.9%), with roughly 20% utilizing a quarterly valuation in the sub-$5 million category. Nine percent of those with less than $50 million in assets were valued quarterly.

Participation Station

Participation rates across all plan sizes were a comfortable, but not extraordinary, 76.9%, on average. The median participation rate was 80.0%.

A solid third of the plans in this year’s survey offered a defined benefit, or pension, plan in addition to the defined contribution option. While it was not surprising to find that result in the vast majority of larger plans, it was encouraging to note that more than one in five of the smallest plans did as well.

The average number of investment options was slightly more than 14 in this year’s results, result that matched the offerings for plans with less than $5 million in assets. Plans with more than $1 billion in assets offered more than twice that many options, on average, while plans with more than $500 million offered nearly 19 funds, on average.

The 2001 DC Survey at