DC Plan Fees Fall to Record Lows

New fee transparency regulation, along with a number of widely publicized fee-related litigation cases, helped drive costs related to retirement investment account administration to record lows this year.

That’s the principal finding of the Defined Contribution Plan & Fee Survey released by NEPC, LLC. Survey researchers also noted that, while recordkeeping fees continue to be charged primarily through revenue-sharing arrangements or asset-based fees, they continue to fall despite rising asset balances.

The biggest drop in fee prices came among bundled providers offering plan reimbursement accounts as a strategy to retain and promote asset management businesses.

This year the annual median total plans cost for plan sponsors clocked in at 0.53%, or 53 cents for every $100 in fund assets. That’s a two basis-point drop from the 0.55% measured in 2012.

Annual weighted average expense ratios remained the same from last year’s survey, marked at 0.52% or 52 cents per $100 in fund assets.

Other notable changes include a $12 drop in the annual median recordkeeping fees charged to plan participants, which fell from $92 to $80 this year. That’s a drop of nearly 33% from the $118 median recordkeeping fee measured in 2006, when NEPC first conducted the survey.  At the time, the median weighted average expense ratio stood at 0.57%.

Researchers used the data to draw some qualitative conclusions as well.

Plan sponsors, they argued, should regularly asses the contracts they have in place to evaluate whether service levels could be impacted by the drop in fee averages and whether fee changes represent actual savings to participants or merely a shifting of costs.

Additional information about the study’s results and methodology can be found here