Powerful Partners Focused On True Retirement Readiness

Voya helps the State of Delaware reshape its retirement plan into a role model for the government market.


Voya helps the State of Delaware reshape its retirement plan into a role model for the government market.

Just a year ago, the State of Delaware looked like many public plan sponsors: It offered multiple plans, with many recordkeepers and thousands of investment options. After conducting a request for proposals (RFP)—and with the support of consultants Cammack Retirement Group Inc.—the state selected Voya Financial as the single recordkeeper for its 403(b), 457(b) and 401(a) plans. In addition to numerous improvements for its participants—including a streamlined investment menu, fee transparency and expanded services—the sponsor has achieved a number of administrative benefits. PLANSPONSOR spoke with Ken Simpler, State of Delaware treasurer, and Heather Lavallee, president, tax-exempt markets at Voya Financial, about their organizations’ successful partnership and the shared goals of improving the participant experience.

PS: What were Delaware’s goals in going through an RFP and restructuring its three plans, and how did partnering with Voya address those?

Ken Simpler: Our overall goal was to improve the employee experience with a program that supports true retirement readiness. This meant finding ways to encourage greater participation through professionally selected, low-cost investment offerings, personal financial assistance and best-in-class planning tools. We also wanted to create a more efficient framework for the state to administer. We ultimately chose Voya based on its ability to deliver on our priorities. The Voya team worked with us to construct a more streamlined, open architecture plan with a three-tiered menu of fund options to meet the diverse investment preferences of our participants. Voya is also working directly with our participants on administrative matters that free treasury staff to focus on strategic objectives and member outreach.

PS: How does Delaware fit the Voya client profile—and what did it take for it to become an effective partner in the process?

Heather Lavallee: Voya serves all types of employers, including the government market, and we’re committed to working with plans of all sizes. As a partner, Delaware is forward-thinking with a clear vision of what it wants—an actionable, measurable partnership that delivers a high-tech, high-touch approach to retirement readiness and financial wellness. The team from Cammack Retirement worked to ensure that the RFP included key information—demographics, transaction activity and investment composition.

PS: What have you learned during the plan improvement process?

Simpler: This was a significant change involving 30,000 participant accounts and more than $600 million in assets. One of our greatest takeaways was recognizing how critical it is to communicate well to all parties involved. It’s also important to establish a set of clear, measurable goals and the strategies to achieve them. With Voya, we’ve identified how we want to increase annual program participation, how to define and track the retirement readiness of our participants and how we want to manage the performance of our investment offerings.

PS: What elements do you see driving the most success in plans such as Delaware’s?

Lavallee: The amount of change that comes with a transformation like Delaware’s presents a unique set of circumstances. To be successful, we believe the most important elements include great support and commitment from the sponsor, a focus on participant outcomes—including the implementation of progressive re-enrollment strategies—and a willingness to communicate often and in many forms. In the case of Delaware, we had a very condensed transition time frame—it was four months from the announcement of our selection until we went live. So a comprehensive communication approach that fit the culture of the plan and its many different participant groups was more important than ever.

PS: Speaking of communications, what are the best practices in communicating a total retirement offering [TRO] for employees?

Lavallee: Delaware has done a great job in making sure it is reaching participants when and how they prefer. To build on this, we developed a strategy to communicate beyond open enrollment and make workplace benefits a year-round conversation. We began with transition communications, which included mailings, emails and a custom website. We rolled out an online tool where employees could schedule in-person appointments at a time and location of their convenience. The team also held 85 on-site group presentations across the state and created a suite of enrollment materials to attract all eligible nonparticipating employees and new hires. We’re thrilled by the progress so far, and, together, we look forward to advancing the retirement readiness of the state’s employees.