Fidelity Finds DC Participants in for the Long Haul

Data from more than 19,000 defined contribution (DC) plans recordkept at Fidelity investments showed participants “did not initially overreact″ to market volatility.

Participants at Fidelity’s DC plans have behaved much the same way as their investor brethren in plans at other firms during the current economic turmoil: They stayed the course (see “Vanguard Says Participants Standing Pat and “Participants Haven’t Shunned 401(k)s“) .

Fidelity Investments reported in a recent data analysis distributed to plan sponsors that participants “did not initially overreact” to market contractions in their efforts to move their assets among their plans’ investment options.

The Fidelity data showed that 6.6% of participants made an exchange in the three month period ending November 30. Of the participants on record as of September 30, 2.5% moved money during September, 4% made an exchange during October, and 1.8% did so in November.

The Fidelity report said that from September 15, the day after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection, through October 10, the net flow out of equities was significant. That trend peaked October 10 and equity outflows were less significant through November 30, the data reflected.

Even when the market dropped significantly in early and mid-October, there was still movement into equities, Fidelity said. Most of the exchange volume involving non-equities involves movement from equities to non-equities, rather than between non-equities, the company data showed.

Between November 2007 and November 2008, Fidelity said 35.9% of participants with a balance greater than $250,000 made an exchange, but only 6.5% of participants with a balance between $1,000 and $5,000 moved money between investment options.

Overall, Fidelity said 98% of participants who contributed in the second quarter of 2008 continued to contribute to their DC plan during the following three-month period despite the volatile markets.

Finally, Fidelity said, only “a handful” of the 19,300 plans for which Fidelity provides recordkeeping services have suspended or terminated their employer contributions.

The data is available here.