Self-Directed Offerings Rise – For Some

October 22, 2000 ( - Self-directed accounts are offered by 38% of respondents to a new survey of southern plan sponsors. But many participants may not notice the difference, since just 17% of plan sponsors offer the same investment options to their qualified and non-qualified plans.

That’s not likely to change anytime soon, since an overwhelming 83% of respondents aren’t planning any significant changes to their retirement plans in the next 24 months. 

While 86% are satisfied with the number and performance of their current investment options, over a third (38%) anticipate increasing the number of investment options – primarily in their 401(k) programs.

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Behind the Numbers

Ward Harris, founder and managing director of McHenry Consulting Group, which conducted the survey, acknowledged that the prevalence of self-directed offerings was much greater than in other surveys. 

He told that the survey audience was “relatively sophisticated,” offering multiple benefits programs, and that the response rate included both qualified and nonqualified programs. While this survey didn’t distinguish between the two categories, other surveys have focused only on 401(k) programs.

Additionally, Harris noted that while other surveys are based on trailing numbers, this survey may include more current data, covering not just those who have a self-directed option, but also those who are in the process of implementing one.

Advice Nice, But Not Available

The survey also found that while most (61%) provide only basic investment information to participants, over 3/4 (77%) said investment information and employee communications were “very important”, and more than two-thirds (68%) believe participants would like to receive direct investment advice. 

Seventy-seven percent admitted that their current benefit communications could be improved.

Nearly 64% provide information on the internet/intranet regarding retirement plans, but just 14% do so for pension and nonqualified plans. 

A majority (56%) would outsource plan administration to a single vendor – if they could find one to meet all their needs. Forty-five percent would combine qualified and nonqualified providers under those circumstances.

The vast majority (95%) of respondents have five or fewer staff members dedicated to supporting their company’s retirement programs.

The Cross Plan Integration survey of middle-market employers was conducted this summer by McHenry Consulting Group, and sponsored by Schwab Retirement Plan Services and Milliman & Robertson. 

Each of the 182 respondents offered at least two types of retirement plans, including defined benefit/pension, 401(k) or non-qualified deferred compensation programs.