SURVEY SAYS: Formal Education for Plan Committee Members

It is good practice to educate plan committee members and some say it is best practice to provide fiduciary training.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers to share whether their firm formally educates plan committee members, whether this education includes fiduciary training, and how often education is provided.


Responding readers included 71.8% who work in a plan sponsor role, 10.3% advisers/consultants, 10.3% TPAs/recordkeepers/investment managers and 7.7% attorneys.


Nearly two-thirds (63.2%) of responding readers said their company provides formal education to retirement plan committee members, while 34.2% said they do not and 2.6% don’t know. More than two-thirds (67.6%) indicated plan committee education includes fiduciary training, 29.7% reported that it does not and 2.7% don’t know.


For 36.4% of respondents there is no set schedule for how often education is provided, but 42.4% reported it is provided annually and one-third said it is provided when a new committee member is added. Readers were allowed to choose more than one response.


Education is provided semi-annually for 12.1% of respondents’ firms and less than annually for 3%.


In verbatim comments, a number of respondents said committee education and training should be an ongoing thing. They shared a few specifics of what education includes. Some use not only onsite education, but require committee members to attend conferences and/or read articles. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Committee members need to know up front about their roles and responsibilities and be periodically reminded.”


A big thank you to all who participated in our survey!



Education is a focus of our Trustees. It includes specific training during onboarding and then ongoing training every year at conferences and during meetings.

Our committee members specialize in working with defined contribution (DC) plan administration and compliance, defined benefit (DB) plan investments, or company finance. New regulations and ideas are presented at the meetings but there is no formal training that each member must complete.

We provide a half-day overview, including what it means to be a fiduciary and current case law that may be relevant. We recently provided fiduciaries with a summary of the coverages they have under our fiduciary liability insurance policy.

We consider fiduciary training part of our standard DC Plan Roadmap and offer it to all clients. We believe it is essential to fulfilling our role as a fiduciary to our clients’ plans.

Annual conference or educational event is required for the plan sponsor and highly recommended for all committee members.

Education is a great idea but currently it is up to each committee member to seek out training. Something to think about.

Luckily committee membership doesn’t change too often, so we can build on past education instead of going back to basics like you have to with plan participants.

In addition to our annual training, Trustees are expected to attend additional training opportunities throughout the year.

We feel it’s critically important for our committee members to fully understand their roles. Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) counsel attends every meeting and then coordinates annual fiduciary training.

Very high level, without history or other means of getting folks up to speed. Learn by the seat your pants.

Articles of interest are shared at the quarterly committee meetings.

This has been a focus the last couple years. Will it continue? Hopefully, as there has been committee member turnover.

It’s an ongoing process, of course. Training is a hook, but appropriate reminders and “teaching moments” help the information to stick.

An annual update is given on fiduciary issues to keep committee members informed on current topics.

Each meeting includes education of some sort, but formal fiduciary education occurs 1-2 times per year in committee meetings plus we offer periodic webinars and one to two seminars per year. Webinars and seminars often include continuing education (CE) for attorneys, CPAs, and SHRM designations.

I can’t imagine anyone would think education for committee members is an “option.”

Committee members need to know up front about their roles and responsibilities and be periodically reminded.

We started training with a half-day fiduciary training meeting and then have a smaller education section at each of our semi-annual committee meetings.



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Strategic Insight or its affiliates.