Retirement Plan Sponsors Prepared to Comply With Regulatory Changes

'Significant adjustments underway' as 403(b) sponsors work to meet participants' needs

A survey released Monday by the Profit Sharing/401k Council of America found that 403(b) plan sponsors are in the "final stages of compliance" with regulatory changes issued by the Department of Labor. Over three-quarters of respondents said they used an auditor, recordkeeper or aggregator to prepare their Form 5500 in 2010, up from two-thirds in 2009.

“This year’s survey proves that 403(b) plan sponsors are still working hard to comply with the new regulations,” David Wray, president of the PSCA, said in a press release. “Although the rate of change has slowed since our 2009 survey, there are still significant adjustments underway as plan sponsors respond to the needs of their participants and their plans.”

The survey also found that 403(b) plans are working to meet their participants' needs by offering features like automatic enrollment, target-date or lifestyle funds, and investment advice. Over 12% of plans featured automatic enrollment in 2010. Plans with over 1,000 participants were especially likely to offer automatic enrollment (29%). Of plans with auto-enrollment, one-third offered target-date funds, and 29% offered lifestyle funds. Over 21% of organizations offered some form of investment advice to participants. The majority offered one-on-one, in-person counseling.

Over 63% of organizations used one-on-one meetings to educate and communicate with their participants, but online forms of communication are becoming increasingly popular. The use of email increased 8 points to 59% in 2010. Intranet or Internet sites increased to over half, and webinar use increased to 15%.

Fiduciary obligations and the volatile market are also affecting plan sponsors' behavior. More than 45% of respondents use an independent investment advisor to help with fiduciary responsibilities, up from 41% in 2009, according to the PSCA.

About three-quarters of eligible employees participate in their company's 403(b) plan, although just 64% contributed in 2010. The average account balance is $70,794. While three-quarters of plans allow participants to make withdrawals from their retirement plans for financial emergencies, just 1.6% of participants did in 2010.

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