Senior Execs Increasingly Weigh in on Plan Decisions

August 7, 2008 ( - Significantly more senior executives are taking a direct role in decisions regarding their organizations' 401(k) plans than in the past, according to Cowden Associates, Inc.'s Second Annual Tri-State Defined Contribution Plan Sponsor Survey.

According to a press release, 94% of survey respondents indicated their senior executives are involved in the investment decisionmaking process, compared with 30% who said the same in 2007. The survey also found more senior managers are serving on their organizations’ Investment/Retirement Committees – taking responsibility for selecting and monitoring the investments offered in their plans, participating in any plan design changes, and overseeing plan service providers and their fees.

“Recent legislation, including the Pension Protection Act and the Supreme Court’s ruling that individuals can sue defined-contribution plan sponsors who mismanage their funds, has been a real wake-up call for plan sponsors,” said Jim Bartoszewicz, executive vice president of Defined Contribution & Investment Advisory Services, in the release. “In just one year, we’re seeing a significant shift in the way defined-contribution plans are managed.”

Other survey findings included:

  • Although the number of respondents who either did not have an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) or did not know what their IPS contained dropped from 52% in 2007 to 41% in 2008, still 25% of respondents reported not having an IPS.
  • The number of defined-contribution plan sponsors who implemented an automatic enrollment program jumped from 16% in 2007 to 25% in 2008. Automatic annual deferral rate increases also were more prevalent, jumping from 7% of employers who implemented the increases in 2007 to 10% in 2008.

More than 125 employers participated in this year’s survey.