Only a quarter (27%) of survey respondents are finding this information on the Web, although this was the most commonly noted request, according to our In Sites 2001 survey of defined benefit plan sponsors.
This gap can be attributed to several factors, according to Elisa Spain, president of EKS Consulting. First, plan sponsors believe their managers have knowledge regarding particular markets, but also believe that consultants and custodians provide objectivity in evaluating that data. Thus many sponsors want web based information for all three sources, but rarely is this available.
Additionally, some plan sponsors have been accessing this type information for some time via installed software and may be reluctant to introduce change to a process that is “working.”
The reality is that those plan sponsors who are involved and engaged in the process tend to be very engaged, frequently seeking out multiple sources of information, according to Spain. “Those already engaged are the innovators, the early adopters” she notes. “They are more willing to spend time working on the development of these tools than the next wave of users will be.”
But even engaged sponsors find it difficult to find what they are looking for. “Most of the unfulfilled sponsor needs were very consumer-driven” notes Spain. “They want the same level of services for their pension program that they are already receiving on an individual account level as an investing consumer.”
And the survey indicates that most plan sponsors are loyal to their current providers, and want them to succeed in developing these alternatives.
Currently, plan sponsors seem most interested in replicating their current “book” of reports online, both as a matter of convenience and reference, according to Spain. However, they are also interested in an ability to get answers to questions on timely topics.
Providers can’t afford to be complacent in these offerings, however. Within a year, Spain expects plan sponsors will expect to have the ability to:
- work with the raw data, customizing it to fit individual needs
- choose the level of analysis depth, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach
- produce a “board-ready” presentation
“All in all, it’s surprisingly ‘early’ in the cycle, and that’s odd, given how long Internet based reporting has been around” according to Spain.
And while there currently appears to be a lack of urgency among providers in responding to the opportunity, look for that to change rapidly in the coming months.