DC Plan Sponsors Looking to Change Investment Lineup

A new report signals imminent change in the defined contribution (DC) investment marketplace.

More than half (51%) of plan sponsors say they will modify their investment lineup over the next 12 months—up considerably from the 44% of sponsors that anticipated changes one year ago, according to the “DC Investment Manager Brandscape” report released by Cogent Research, a Market Strategies International company. This includes plan sponsors who plan to expand or reduce the options in their investment menus, as well as those who plan to exchange at least one investment for another, Linda York, vice president of Syndicated Division and lead author of the report, told PLANSPONSOR.  

York explained that fee disclosures are prompting much of the change. Twenty-one percent of the plan sponsors surveyed say this is prompting them to change to lower fee share classes, 24% plan to negotiate for lower fees, and 12% are looking to consolidate their investment menus as a result of fee disclosure.  

According to York, plan sponsors are incorporating investments from about three to five investment managers on their platforms. Only 51% rated their investment managers as an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale, indicating many are not very satisfied with their investment relationships.

The top reasons plan sponsors cited for dropping investment managers or reducing the number of investments in their lineups included underperformance relevant to benchmarks and a desire to reduce fees or expenses. “Beyond that, when plan sponsors are evaluating new firms, having a well-respected brand as well as outstanding service or support were key drivers of consideration for DC plan sponsors,” York said. She added that service and support are also key to DC plan sponsors’ loyalty to asset managers. 

The report, based on a representative survey of more than 600 DC plan sponsors with direct responsibility for selecting and/or evaluating investment managers and investment options for their respective plans, showed “the DCIO [defined contribution investment only] market is dominated by a select few market leaders who have established a formidable presence in terms of brand awareness, favorable impression and likely consideration,” York noted. “That said, up-and-coming firms looking to grow and differentiate their brands in the DCIO market have the opportunity to enhance their core brand positioning with a focus on service and support, risk management practices, thought leadership and/or competitive fees or fee structure.”  

More information about the report, including how to obtain a copy, is here.