Managed Accounts Lag as QDIA Option, but Opportunity Still Exists

Since the Department of Labor issued its regulations on qualified default investment alternatives (QDIAs), target-date funds have been favored as a QDIA selection for plan sponsors.


However, as asset managers educate advisers and investors on the benefits of managed accounts and professional advice, Cerulli Associates sees an increased opportunity for DC managed accounts. Cerulli expects opportunities for asset managers to persist as the market chaos in 2008 has renewed the hunger for professional advice among investors.  

The September issue of The Cerulli Edge: U.S. Asset Management Edition points out that managed account providers struggle to increase participant adoption rates, which range from 8%-10% across plan assets. Cerulli says that managed account providers must offer education and marketing services for plan providers and financial advisers to raise awareness of the benefits of managed accounts.  

Once plan sponsors buy into the value of offering a managed accounts option within their DC plan, the more difficult task is to educate participants. An executive interviewed by Cerulli said that “getting plan sponsors to buy in is easier than getting participants engaged.”   

According to the report, educating participants on the value of managed account programs requires a coordinated effort between providers and their distribution partners (mutual fund and insurance companies). When implemented successfully, higher participant adoption rates are seen. While the level of detail and coordination offered for participant-level education varies by a managed account provider’s scale for distribution, participant education generally revolves around welcome kits, marketing collateral, and enrollment meetings.  

Cerulli said in the quest to gather assets in DC managed accounts, it’s not only important for asset managers to understand (and participate in) the education process, but also to build a detailed knowledge of a provider’s investment platform and due diligence process.