Guardian study identifies direct link between plan satisfaction and financial professional support
NEW YORK, April 28, 2014— The Guardian Insurance & Annuity Company, Inc. (GIAC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, today released the results of a comprehensive national survey showing wide-spread satisfaction among sponsors who offer qualified retirement plans in the small-plan market, particularly if they work with a financial professional. The survey also shows that opportunities for financial professionals abound in this sector because they are viewed as key to the successful selection, implementation and management of group retirement plans.
The Small Plan 401(k) RetireWell Study SM: What’s Working and Not Working for Small Businesses reveals that 98 percent of plan sponsors are either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their 401(k) plan. Additionally, 61 percent of plan sponsors who work with a financial professional are “very satisfied” with their 401(k) plan overall compared to only 40 percent of sponsors who are “very satisfied” with their plans and do not use a financial professional. This quantifies an industry trend that has been anecdotally apparent for some time, namely that there is a wide gap in plan satisfaction between those sponsors who work with financial professionals and those who choose to go it alone.
This inaugural study, prepared for Guardian by Brightwork Partners, identifies the areas within workplace retirement savings plans that small business owners view as functioning well and those that need improvement. The study also highlights key opportunities for financial professionals in the small-plan market, particularly as it relates to the need for fiduciary education and fiduciary support solutions.
401(k)s are Delivering
Guardian’s study reveals that nine plan sponsors in ten consider their 401(k) successful when it comes to helping them recruit and retain good employees, keeping them competitive when it comes to benefits and securing an adequate retirement income for their employees.
Based on the survey results, employers also think their plans work for their employees as well. Approximately nine in ten say their 401(k) is successful in terms of making retirement savings easier, providing planning tools, encouraging systematic savings and helping employees fund a secure retirement.
“Nothing in our history has helped promote retirement savings more than workplace defined contribution plans and this study tells us that the vast majority of small business owners who offer 401(k) plans are satisfied with both the plan itself and their plan providers,” said Douglas Dubitsky, vice president at Guardian Retirement Solutions. “Even for small businesses, 401(k) plans are delivering what they were designed to do.”
Forty-six percent of businesses surveyed did not offer a retirement plan, with many citing the potential expense as a deterrent. However, 58 percent indicated that they were interested in setting up a plan within the next three years. This, coupled with the fact that nearly 30 percent of business owners did not know which type of plan was best suited for their company, illuminates the huge opportunities for financial professionals in the small-plan market.
Opportunity to Help
While the majority of plan sponsors are satisfied with their retirement plans, the underlying fees and expenses, including the potential cost of a match, are cited as major concerns when offering retirement savings plans at the workplace. Additional concerns include the staff and executive time required to manage the plan along with the need to educate employees to manage their investments.
The study also revealed that small business owners are confused by their fiduciary roles and responsibilities with nearly one in five plan sponsors not satisfied with the current level of fiduciary support they receive. Additionally, almost one-third of plan sponsors did not realize they were, in fact, the plan fiduciary when asked. Plan sponsors who work with financial professionals, however, are more knowledgeable about plan requirements, including their fiduciary responsibilities, and generally offer plans that are better designed and include more advanced features, such as an employer match, target date funds and a managed account option.
Advisors Increase Plan Satisfaction
Virtually every aspect of 401(k) sponsorship is more successful if a financial professional is involved, according to the study. Advisors are in a key position to provide education and guidance to both sponsors and participants. In fact, the majority of small business owners who work with advisors said they are “very satisfied” with every aspect of their 401(k) than those without advisor support, partly because plans working with financial professionals tend to have more features and better plan design.
“While most plan sponsors are satisfied, there are still areas where employers and employees need help. Small-plan sponsors are increasingly realizing the value of working with third-party support services and financial professionals for outsourced solutions that help save time and mitigate fiduciary risks,” added Dubitsky. “This, and the fact that many non-sponsors are extremely confused by their options in the 401(k) market, reinforces what we have seen at Guardian for a long time – there are more and better opportunities for financial professionals in the small-plan retirement market than ever before.”
The online survey was conducted by Brightwork Partners between Nov. 12 and Dec. 14, 2013, and is based on interviews with 451 senior executives from for-profit organizations with 25-249 employees that have been in business three years or more and who are involved in the selection and evaluation of providers of employee benefits such as health and retirement plans.
To obtain a copy of The Small Plan 401(k) RetireWell Study SM: What’s Working and Not Working for Small Businesses results, please contact Ana Sandoval of Guardian at Ana_Sandoval@glic.com.
A mutual insurer founded in 1860, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries are committed to protecting individuals, business owners and their employees with life, disability income and dental insurance products, and offer funding vehicles for 401(k) plans, annuities and other financial products. Guardian operates one of the largest dental networks in the United States, and protects more than eight million employees and their families at over 115,000 companies. The company has approximately 5,000 employees in the United States and a network of over 3,000 financial representatives in more than 80 agencies nationwide. For more information about Guardian, please visit www.GuardianLife.com.
Guardian Retirement Solutions™ refers to the administrative support services, including participant recordkeeping as well as marketing, enrollment and educational materials, provided by GIAC in conjunction with the individual and group retirement products issued by GIAC. For more information about Guardian Retirement Solutions, please visit 401k.GuardianLife.com.