However, the survey does find that the majority of plan sponsors (65%) are highly satisfied with their plan advisors.
“This is not a time for plan advisors to rest on their laurels. While most plan sponsors remain satisfied with their advisors, they are raising their expectations,” said Jordan Burgess, head of specialist field sales overseeing defined contribution investment only (DCIO) sales at Fidelity Institutional Asset Management. “For some advisors, this could put their business at risk. For others, this could be an opportunity to win new clients.”
The survey, which is based on responses from 1,106 employers who offer retirement plans that use a wide variety of recordkeepers and have at least 25 participants and $10 million in plan assets, finds that reducing business costs related to having a plan is the top concern for plan sponsors (31%).
Other important themes for plan sponsors include managing their fiduciary responsibility (23%), preparing employees for retirement (22%) and the risk of litigation and liability (18%).
The research also highlighted the competing priorities employers face when allocating time, budget and resources to providing benefits to their employees.
In terms of overall benefits, the plan sponsors surveyed report that health care ranks No. 1, before retirement benefits in order of importance. Two-thirds of the plan sponsors surveyed (67%) agree that increased health care costs have resulted in reduced spending on other benefits, an increase from 64% in 2016 and 60% in 2015.
“Successful plan advisors are those who are aware of their dual mandate: to help plan participants achieve their retirement outcomes, as well as to support plan sponsors with the challenges associated with offering a defined contribution plan and other employee benefits,” Burgess said in a statement.
The study found that plan sponsors are making more plan design changes than ever before. Plan design activity continues to increase and reached a new high at 92%, with plan advisors seen as the primary influencer of these changes. A large majority (79%) of plan sponsors also reported that participants were satisfied with the changes.
The survey finds that auto-enrollment continues to be the most popular change, with 42% of the plan sponsors surveyed having introduced the feature in the past two years. More than two-thirds of the respondents said their participants were satisfied with auto-enrollment.
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