Connie Weaver

Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, TIAA-CREF

PA: At PLANADVISER National Conference, you talked about the shift in focus from retirement products to retirement outcomes. What should an adviser or plan sponsor consider in thinking about this shift?

Weaver: While this is a recent shift for much of the industry, driving better outcomes and ensuring that our clients’ employees have guaranteed lifetime income has been at the core of TIAA-CREF’s approach for decades.1 We work with our clients to help employees achieve financial well-being throughout their lives by focusing on four drivers.

The first is plan design, with best-practice features and services that help employees meet their income needs in retirement: auto-enrollment, auto-escalation, a carefully crafted employer match, guardrails against loans, and guaranteed income products.

The second driver is investment solutions. Here again, we understand investment decisions are for a lifetime; therefore, guaranteed income options are critical. Research shows that 72% of participants surveyed are interested in contributing to an investment option within their retirement plan that focuses mainly on generating a guaranteed monthly income in retirement.2

Third, we look at efficient plan management that streamlines operations and reduces fiduciary risk, with—when possible—a sole recordkeeping model that creates better outcomes for employees by letting them more easily act on advice via a single transaction with a single vendor.

All three of these drivers are targeted at plan sponsors. But the fourth, employee engagement, touches not just plan sponsors but employees as well. We use our in-depth knowledge of employees to approach them in a highly engaging manner, with the information they need, in the way that they prefer to receive it.

Studies have shown that engaging employees through targeted, relevant communications and education can increase participation, savings rates and net worth.3 That’s why we use seminars, materials and planning tools that accommodate the ways in which people prefer to receive information. We are constantly adapting to changing trends by tapping new capabilities, such as interactive online tools, gaming and mobile applications.

We also offer personalized advice and guidance that considers an individual’s age, current savings rates, plan investments and tolerance for investment risk. This helps him navigate his choices and figure out how to invest, how much to contribute, how to distribute assets, when to retire and more.

This carefully targeted engagement helps us to overcome many people’s natural inertia around financial planning. We aim to reach people early in their careers and help them build the good habits that contribute to a secure retirement afforded by adequate income.