Market Spurs High Participant Transfer Activity

Average daily transfer volume among defined contribution (DC) plan participants during November was at the highest level since August 2011.

The month of November saw volatility in the stock market as equity markets plunged following the election, according to the Aon Hewitt 401(k) Index. However, markets recovered during the last two weeks of the month, and most major equity and fixed income indices finished in positive territory by month-end. Total net transfer activity in November amounted to $537 million, or 0.40% of total participant balances. Net daily transfers favored fixed income funds for 90% of trading days.   

Transfers into fixed income asset classes from equities totaled $481 million of total flows, or 0.36% of total assets. When company stock activity is excluded, equity outflows total $326 million (0.24%) of participant balances. Both monthly totals are the highest on record this year.   

Net outflows for November came mostly from four equity asset classes consisting of U.S. investments: Large U.S. funds lost the largest amount of $171 million (32%), followed by company stock fund losses at $155 million (29%), small U.S. equities at $88 million (16%) and mid U.S. funds with $53 million (10%) of the outflows. Premixed funds also had $47 million (9%) transfer out.  

Among the asset classes with net inflows for November, bond funds had gains totaling $239 million (45%) of flows. After bonds, GIC/stable value funds also recorded sizable gains with $206 million (38%) transferring in. Additionally, money market funds had $55 million (10%) of the monthly inflows, while international funds claimed $30 million (6%) despite transfers otherwise moving out of equities.   

On average, 62.3% of employee discretionary contributions were directed to equities for November. Participants’ overall equity allocation decreased 0.3% to reach 59.2%, largely attributable to net transfer activity away from equities.  

The Aon Hewitt 401(k) Index is here.