2016 Service Stars – Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust

Automotive retailer AutoNation Inc. decided to make numerous changes to its 401(k) investment lineup and opted to do them all at once. An easy-to-understand communications campaign from Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust explained the different adjustments to participants.
 
“We set out to not only satisfy the legal-notification requirements of such changes, but to also simply and graphically educate the participants on why these changes were important and participant-outcome-focused,” says Courtney Turney, senior manager, retirement plans and relocation, at AutoNation. “If communication is about meeting people where they are, our campaign was the most successful I have seen so far in my career.”
 
The plan implemented the new investment menu in December 2014 and made a total of 22 changes. “They really wanted to diversify the lineup and make sure the plan had good investment choices for all types of investors,” recalls Kate Asleson, a relationship manager at Wells Fargo in Minneapolis. For participants who want a “Do it for me” approach, the plan switched from offering model portfolios to utilizing target-date funds (TDFs), because the sponsor felt participants could understand that investment easier. The plan also added three index funds, to help participants interested in passive investing. The sponsor additionally opted to eliminate company stock from the plan, which required liquidating what was held in participants’ accounts. And it decided to stop utilizing revenue sharing to pay plan administrative expenses, switching to a per-head administrative fee for participants and moving to the lowest share class for all investments.
 
As an automotive retailer, AutoNation, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has a geographically dispersed work force with a wide range of investment knowledge. “They are a difficult work force to reach,” Asleson says. “Many don’t have access to computers at work, in a showroom or service-department environment, so we weren’t going to reach the majority of employees through corporate email.”
 
Cassandra Olson, a participant experience consultant with Wells Fargo, also in Minneapolis, coordinated the communications campaign, creating two brochures to explain the changes to participants. The first, utilizing full color, “had what people needed to know, in a way that they could understand,” Asleson notes. The brochure explained the changes simply, the last page having a timeline with key dates for participants. The second brochure contained all the legally required notifications. “We decided to separate that out, so it would not overwhelm the average participant,” she says.
 
The firm did two mailings of the brochures. The first went to participants and the second to nonparticipants, with the latter including an easy-enroll form to sign up for the 401(k). At year-end 2015, participation totaled 37% in the plan, which does not use automatic enrollment. —Judy Ward

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