Custom Fit Funds

DC Plan Sponsors Evaluate If Current Investment Options Achieve Participant Retirement Income Needs, Use of Custom Target-Date-Funds Among Changes Being Considered

OAKS, PA–(Marketwired – Apr 3, 2014) – A survey released by SEI (NASDAQ: SEIC) today found that defined contribution (DC) plan sponsors are evaluating their current target-date-funds (TDFs) and considering whether or not custom TDFs are a better option.

Of those plan sponsors already offering TDFs, 12 percent currently use custom funds rather than proprietary or pre-packaged options. The poll suggests that percentage is rising as more than a third (37 percent) of those surveyed said their organization is likely or somewhat likely to implement or revise custom target date solutions in the next 18 months. Last year, the Department of Labor offered guidance to plan sponsors suggesting those offering proprietary or pre-packaged TDFs consider custom or non-proprietary options.

“While there wasn’t a noticeable immediate response to the Department of Labor’s guidance by plan sponsors, the survey results suggest that tide is shifting towards evaluating custom or multi-manager TDF options,” said Scott Brooks, Managing Director, Defined Contribution, SEI’s Institutional Group. “This makes complete sense as DC plan sponsors are recognizing that their fiduciary responsibilities have evolved and they need to focus on making sure the DC plan’s investments can provide participants with adequate retirement income.”

Measuring effectiveness

Better providing participants with adequate retirement income could very well be the driving force behind changes to current TDFs, but success metrics will also need to change. Less than a third (29 percent) of those surveyed said the organization measures the effectiveness of the investment options in the DC plan by evaluating if projected participant income replacement ratios are being met at retirement. An overwhelming majority (98 percent) continue to measure effectiveness by only reviewing investment performance, which tends to focus on short-term metrics such as three- and five-year performance, not long-term goals.The lack of focus on meeting retirement income needs comes despite the fact that nearly two-thirds (57 percent) said the objective of the company’s DC plan was to provide a primary source of retirement income.

While there wasn't a noticeable immediate response to the Department of Labor's guidance by plan sponsors, the survey results suggest that tide is shifting towards evaluating custom or multi-manager TDF options

The majority of respondents only offer DC plans to employees, as less than half (47 percent) said the organization still offers a defined benefit (DB) plan as well. Notably, a significant number (39 percent) of plan sponsors only offering a DC plan said the objective of the plan was to provide supplemental retirement income. This could suggest they feel their DC plan cannot provide sufficient retirement income to be primary, or that employees’ primary retirement income will come from either Social Security or savings vehicles outside of the DC plan.

Concerns around being able to effectively meet fiduciary and oversight responsibilities when implementing more sophisticated funds might be causing delays for some plan sponsors to shift to custom TDFs. When asked why they don’t currently implement custom TDFs, half (49 percent) said concern with added complexity/liability was a reason, while nearly a third (31 percent) cited they lack internal resources for implementation and ongoing oversight. This explains why 42 percent said the organization would consider outsourcing investment manager selection in some areas of their DC plan. Of that group, 43 percent said they would do so when implementing custom TDFs.

The poll was conducted by SEI’s Defined Contribution Research Panel in February 2014. It was completed by 285 executives overseeing DC plans in the United States. For the complete poll summary, email



About SEI’s Institutional Group
SEI’s Institutional Group is one of the first and largest global providers of delegated fiduciary management investment services. The company began offering these services in 1992 and today acts as a fiduciary manager to more than 450 retirement, non-profit and healthcare clients in seven different countries. Through a flexible model designed to help our clients achieve financial goals, we provide asset allocation advice and modelling, investment management, risk monitoring and stress testing, active liability-focused investing and integrated goals-based reporting. For more information visit here.

About SEI
SEI (NASDAQ: SEIC) is a leading global provider of investment processing, fund processing, and investment management business outsourcing solutions that help corporations, financial institutions, financial advisors, and ultra-high-net-worth families create and manage wealth. As of December 31, 2013, through its subsidiaries and partnerships in which the company has a significant interest, SEI manages or administers $559 billion in mutual fund and pooled or separately managed assets, including $232 billion in assets under management and $327 billion in client assets under administration. For more information, visit