PSNC 2014: Setting a Goal

On the first day of the PLANSPONSOR National Conference (PSNC) in Chicago, current and former PLANSPONSOR of the Year winners and finalists shared how they define success for their employee base and the challenges they have in working towards their retirement plan benchmarks.

In this very regulated industry and with plan sponsors often playing multiple roles, at times sponsors are simply reacting  to regulations rather than looking ahead,  but these plan sponsors have the drive to continually try to move their plans forward. Plan sponsors on the panel believe in helping participants with financial literacy, and they do not focus on teaching about the nuances of investing participants’ retirement savings.

Richard Hartman, corporate benefits manager for retirement plans for American Woodmark Corporation, a 2014 PLANSPONSOR of the Year finalist in the Corporate 401(k) $50MM-$1B category (see “American Woodmark Corp.”), said “We try to design the plan to make it easy for participants to land where they should be–adding or tearing down any barriers along the way.”

Landsman Development Corporation, a 2014 finalist in the Corporate 401(k) under $50MM category (see “Landsman Development Corp.”), takes a paternatlistic view towards its participants, many of whom are low-salary earners and non-English speakers. James Goff, the president and CEO of Landsman says, “We meet as a group three times per year to talk about financial education. Education is very meaningful.” In order to opt out of the plan’s 2% automatic enrollment, particpants need to meet with Goff. The same is true with taking money from the 401(k) plan.

Robert Tomaschko, director of compensation, retirement & HRMS at Land O’Lakes, Inc., a 2012 PLANSPONSOR of the Year winner (see “Land O’ Lakes, Inc.”), believes in the value of helping participants. “We don’t offer brokerage windows—they have a low uptake and do not fit our plan. We look to build sustainable income and we feel we have an optimal view—long term investing. ”Regarding educating employees about leakage from retirement plans, Tomaschko says “Keep it simple. Tell participants they need to set aside money, if they have another resource to tap before their retirement plan, do it.”

“We have a roadmap and we’re looking out three to five years. We are putting in a Roth option mostly for the Millennials and we plan to partner next year with a financial wellness group” Tomaschko says.

Tim Atkinson, chair of the City of Austin Deferred Compensation Committee, the 2014 PLANSPONSOR of the Year winner in the public defined contribution category (see “City of Austin”), says the city has quite a few limitations due to its multiple plans, yet participation is approximately 67%. In the coming year, Atkinson will be concentrating on a reduction of fees and plan simplification in general. Atkinson believes education is the best dollar spent.