SURVEY SAYS: Biggest Influences in the Retirement Industry

December 10, 2012 - Next year is PLANSPONSOR’s 20th anniversary, and we’re planning to honor 20 institutions that have influenced or changed the retirement industry over the past 20 years.

We asked NewsDash readers for their thoughts about which institutions should be recognized.   

Responding readers suggested: 

  • Morningstar 
  • Fidelity 
  • Ascensus 
  • Congress 
  • Vanguard 
  • Internal Revenue Service 
  • Milliman Financial Risk Management 
  • CPI Qualified Plan Consultants 
  • Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) 
  • Colorado PERA 
  • Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) 
  • Motley Fool 
  • Ibbotson 
  • Prudential 
  • Principal Financial Group 
  • American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) 
  • Hartford Financial Services Group 
  • Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) 
  • Social Security Administration 
  • IBM 
  • Merrill Lynch 
  • T. Rowe Price 
  • American Benefits Council (ABC) 
  • American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) 
  • Financial engines 


Think there are some companies or groups missing from this list? Forgot to weigh in? E-mail with your suggestions. 


When asked why they selected the entities they suggested, responding readers said: 


With more than 30 years of industry experience, Ascensus delivers high-quality solutions for every segment of the retirement plan marketplace. A division of Crump Group, Inc., a leading provider of retirement services and the largest, most diversified wholesale insurance distributor in the U.S., Ascensus services nearly 27,000 defined contribution plans in the micro to large markets and administers over 1.5 million IRAs. 


Congress -- seems obvious. Principal Financial Group, an industry leader that has provided best practices and models for the industry that led to auto-enrollment and better/required participant statements, and also kept DB plans available to small-to-medium companies. American Benefits Council for their influence on the path of legislation (PPA, Stabilization, and many funding rules before those) and help guiding regulation. 


Each of these entities (Vanguard, ASPPA and AARP) has proven to me as a pension professional, and as an individual, that they hold strong principals, care about their product and the people they serve, and consistently strive to improve what they do and how they do it. Kudos to all three...America's best! 


1. The IRS sphere of influence has always cast a wide shadow on the industry for better or worse. 2. I've worked in the Wealth Management division my entire career and will be retiring at the end of the year. I've seen The Hartford grow as a major player in the DC market for both corporate and TEM plans. 3. Vanguard has consistently been the light in times of darkness to show investors how to chart their course in both calm and turbulent waters to reach their goals. because you have educated me and thousands of others in the industry through daily emails, webinars, publications and annual conferences. 


Milliman's Financial Risk Management practice started 14 years ago and in that time has revolutionized risk management in the retirement savings industry, currently assisting its clients in hedging over $500 billion in daily retirement savings account value. With its roots in providing hedging services to nearly all the variable annuity writers in the world, Milliman FRM has extended its services to defined benefit and defined contribution plans, offering individual investors access to institutional-quality risk management. For more information, see 


I won't lie, I do work for CPI, but I am not nominating my company simply because I work there. CPI is so dedicated to continual improvement and making sure that we stay on top of everything we can do to make ourselves leaders in the industry. Our customer service is second to none because we really truly care about our plan sponsors and our financial advisors. CPI would make an excellent choice to honor. 


PSCA has done more for plan sponsors than any organization around. Their mission has always been to protect America's retirement system. They are the only organization that specifically represents plan sponsors only. They have had a major impact on legislation affecting plan sponsors. PSCA is committed to educating and supporting plan sponsors. 


Congress - for killing DB plans and promoting DC plans in the interest of balancing the federal budget FASB - for shining the light on the actual cost of benefits, expecially post-retirement medical benefits, causing companines to reduce or eliminate them. 


Fidelity, for good or bad, has by its presence and business approach, transformed our notion of retirement savings, from the concept of daily valuation as a "given", to the existence of customer call centers, to the notion that all of this is "free" (via imbedded/net fees). Everybody else has been playing catch-up since then. On Social Security, it is, quite simply, the only thing standing between a rapidly aging population and complete destitution in old age. Everybody "jokes" about it not being here, not being able to count on it, but the reality is, quite simply, stunning in terms of its contribution to older Americans' well-being. It is the pension that American counts on in the real world. If it ever DOES go away, so may the notion of retirement. As for EBRI, at a time when many are looking to shift support from employer-sponsored plans, they remain a valuable and consistent source of data AND information, about the TRUE impact of those decisions on retirement savings, the true size of the DC market (401ks AND IRAs), and thus, its valuable contribution to retirement security, as well as supporting - over a LONG period of time - impactful surveys like their Retirement Confidence Survey (that kind of sentiment consistently reported over 20+ years really helps see how things have changed - and not - over time). 


Colorado PERA because we have changed securities litigation, have been standard bearers in the DC arena, we have led the way in pension reform since the economic downturn. 


Ascensus has been a forerunner in the DC market place. They have acquired cups, acquired businesses, Bob Guillocheau has been in the industry's top 10 over the last several years. This company is recognized for its service culture focused on the client and financial professional. Their ERISA Legal team is an active member of ASPPA and SPARK. They are speakers at many conferences and hold training sessions across the country. This is one of the most influential service providers in the country. 


To this day, much of the industry continues to accept as "gospel" things that "just ain't so" (like everyone used to have a pension, only half of workers have access to a workplace plan, etc). Not just for the past 20 years, but since 1978, EBRI has helped set the record straight, and done so without pitching a product. IBM, quite simply, has set the table for many plan design considerations; most notably their cash balance decision, but also their approach in managing participant money, offering holistic advice/financial counseling, and now, reportedly, changing the timing of their match. Financial engines, though it has morphed and changed its business model over time, has nonetheless managed to establish that the most impactful advice is actually doing it FOR someone. Arguably what participants wanted all along

Verbatim (cont.)  

Morningstar helps the individual investor get the information investment professionals are using. 


Morningstar has grown quickly in recent years to become one of the most influential investment managers in the industry. Morningstar has a diverse array of offerings and innovative solutions for plan sponsors in the retirement space. 


Morningstar because nearly every core business of Morningstar serves the retirement industry from data to software to registered investment advisor fiduciary services. It was a pioneer of fiduciary advice services to both sponsors and to participants, its independent and unbiased approach to advice brings institutional level research and portfolio construction to the masses at very reasonable costs, and everything they do is with the end investor in mind. 


Both firms have long track records of putting investors first and improving retirement outcomes. 


Morningstar has impressed me with their well-researched methodologies and being able to incorporate top-notch research into sellable solutions that ultimately benefit the participant. 


Revolutionized the way 'average' investors can make informed financial decisions. 


Morningstar as a company always puts it's investors first. Morningstar is a pioneer on MF analysis and offers insightful perspectives on the industry. 


great results 


They have been a great help in steering me towards the right decisions regarding my retirement account. 


Complete family (Fidelity) 


Research leading to innovative changes in the industry. 


Innovators in fiduciary services, managed accounts, custom target-date funds, human capital methodology. Trusted, independent, and objective. 


Independence, objectivity, thought leadership 


Morningstar, a company recognized throughout the financial industry for its independence and trust, has been on the forefront of helping individual investors for more than 25 years. When it comes to retirement, Morningstar has led the industry with innovative products such as managed accounts (launched in 2000), retirement income solutions (launched in 2006), fiduciary services (launched in 2003), and custom target-date solutions (launced in 1999). As a result, they reach more plans and participants than any other advisory services provider in the market. Through their 25 plan provider relationships, they work with more than 200,000 plans to help more than 24 million participants reach their retirement goals. 



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates. 

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