Study: 401(K) Sponsors Are Happy With Their Providers

August 11, 2003 ( - The vast majority (94%) of 401(k) plan sponsors are satisfied with the overall performance of the companies managing their plans.

Overall, 94% of those sponsors polled by the SPARK Research Group expressed some satisfaction with their plan providers, with 68% saying they were very satisfied. This represents an improvement over 2002’s numbers when 92% were satisfied overall and 61% very satisfied.

In fact, the latest release shows the highest satisfaction levels since the survey began in 2000. This comes despite the fact that most sponsors (55%) said assets in their plans had decreased over the previous 12 months, compared with just 39% that reported an increase and the 6% that have had their balances remain the same.

Perhaps though, plan sponsors’ optimism is beginning to shine through. Virtually all sponsors polled (99%) believe the stock market has bottomed-out, with seven out of 10 feeling the market will rise over the next year. “As the retirement market comes off a third year of weak investment performance, plan sponsors are proving to be resilient and hopeful, and participants continue to rely on the plans for retirement savings,” said Warren Cormier, co-director of SPARK.

Plan Cross Section

The study also found that even with some high profile companies cutting their employer 401(k) match, the overall percentage of companies offering a match has remained the same over the last three years (87%). Further, of the companies examined, the average number of investment options is 14, and only one out of five (21%) offer a self-directed brokerage option.

This comes at a time when participants seem happy with their plans, based on overall satisfaction levels and the percentage of eligible employees participating in 401(k) plans is the same as it has been since 2001 (76%).

The study, DCP Plan Sponsor 2003, is an examination of plan sponsors covering their satisfaction with and loyalty to providers, the brand/image of more than 20 leading providers, and plan design and sponsor behavior. It is based on telephone interviews with human resources or financial decision-makers at 1607 companies with plan assets of at least $5 million and a median number of employees at the surveyed companies of 560. More information can be obtained by contacting Jeff Close at (860) 658-5058.