2015 RPAY – John Ludwig

PA: What is your mission statement?

John Ludwig: We seek to provide the answer to retirement—from building to it to enjoying it.

For more stories like this, sign up for the PLANADVISERdash daily newsletter.

PA: What have you done in the past year to improve participants’ retirement readiness?

JL: In an effort to improve participant outcomes, we have reviewed plan designs to incorporate a greater incentive for participants to increase their savings. We have done this by implementing increased use of automatic enrollment and escalation, as well as interweaving demographics-based education as a way to enhance the participant investment experience. These actions have allowed participants to increase their savings and their investing knowledge, which will have a compounding effect as they near retirement.

PA: Describe any particularly noteworthy investment initiatives you have led with your customer base in the past 12 months.

JL: According to various behavioral and psychological studies, too many choices result in indecision and anxiety. As a result of these findings, in the last year we have made a concerted effort to work with our plan sponsors to reduce investment lineup complexity to make it easier for participants to build diverse, actionable portfolios that more accurately reflect their given objectives. To achieve this goal, we have consolidated our fund menus to concentrate on the right number of funds and asset classes a plan should offer employees based on the plan demographics.

PA: What are the most important issues your plan sponsors face with their company retirement plan, and what specific actions do you take to assist them in overcoming those issues?

JL: The most important issue for plan sponsors today is still the procrastination that employees display toward retirement planning. It is human nature for participants to think of today versus trying to envision what retirement will look like years down the road. We challenged our plan sponsors to think differently about their plan designs in order to increase participant engagement and participation. By discussing behavioral finance topics and strategies relating to plan design—such as automatic enrollment, escalation and increased matching—we were able to empower our plan sponsors to architect specific plan designs that drive participant outcomes and objectives.

PA: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?

JL: We take pride in participants who come to us after years of engagement to let us know we made a difference to them and their ability to retire. Knowing you can have an impact on so many people is very satisfying, and is a responsibility we assume with the utmost care and diligence.

PA: Please describe any special education or communication initiatives you’ve undertaken with plan sponsors or participants.

JL: For a number of plans, we surveyed participants to gauge their financial well-being and retirement readiness. Involvement in the survey was robust and allowed us to compile data to present an informed participant-education design to plan sponsors, which focused on the greatest areas of need based on the survey outcomes. As a result, plan sponsors were edified in a real, functional way that directly impacted their participants’ specific needs.

Additionally, we have taken the initiative to work with plan sponsors to reduce investment lineups and thereby embolden participants to make less complex, objective-based investment decisions while maintaining diversification and investment best practices. By combining this strategy with the educational survey mentioned previously, the end result is an education model and investment menu that is tailored to the demographics of the plan, and is actionable, simple and sophisticated. 

We consider this program of combining demographic statistics and needs with actionable education modules and investment menus a success, and we look forward to continuing the initiative with plan sponsors this year and beyond.