Plan Administration Guide, Part Two: Recordkeeping Survey

Breaking down the DC industry by plan type.

Industry Snapshots

401(k) Industry Snapshot

The 401(k) plan is the most common institutional retirement savings vehicle and now accounts for more than 60% of all defined contribution (DC) plans, participants and assets. But the market is far from uniform. Over 90% of the plans have less than $10 million in total plan assets, yet these plans account for only 20% of total 401(k) participants and less than 15% of the total assets. Stated differently, the 700 largest plans—accounting for 0.1% of all plans—control 50% of all assets and over one-third (36%) of all participants.

Not surprisingly, the industry has evolved to cater to the unique needs of these two distinct markets, with smaller plans commonly sold or serviced through intermediaries and larger plans more apt to be sold directly. Recordkeepers have somewhat mirrored this trend, resulting in two somewhat separate and distinct competitive landscapes: Smaller plans tend to align with adviser-centric businesses or those supplying core business services—e.g., payroll—while larger plans migrate toward providers offering proprietary, and customizable, platforms.

Beyond these differences, even the smallest plans can offer competitively priced investment options, managed accounts, mobile apps and comprehensive financial wellness education if plan sponsors can find the right partner. —Brian O’Keefe

Total 401(k) Plan Assets ($mm)


Total Assets, Plans, and Participants

Total 401(k) Assets, Plans, and Participants
By Plan Size Assets ($mm)* Plans* Participants*
<$10mm $679,919 502,959 14,215,046
$10mm – $50mm $522,445 32,317 9,210,691
>$50mm – $200mm $517,664 6,484 8,280,743
>$200mm – $1b $896,843 2,101 11,017,101
>$1b $2,540,021 682 23,001,630
*Not all providers report complete data, therefore data segmented by plan size will not equal the corresponding overall total.