COLLECTED WISDOM™ for Plan, Retirement, and Investment Committees
Most would agree the plan fiduciaries must establish investment and plan committees that will clearly define a process of plan administration. However, the only thing worse than not having a committee is having one that doesn't know what it's doing or never follows its own rules. Learn more from these resources.
This archive contains not only the most current material on the topic, but also older items that are still relevant, provide background, perspective or are germane to the topic.
If you find a broken link or an items that you feel is outdate, irrelevant or no longer appropriate, please let us know.
Abstract: As DC plans represent a growing share of workers' retirement nest eggs, plan sponsors and consultants may be considering customized investment options for their DC plan investment menus. This 12-page paper discusses the potential benefits and drawbacks of including nonstandard investment options, particularly white-label funds, in a 401k plan.
Source: Vanguard.com, June 2018
Abstract: Fund expenses cover portfolio management, fund administration and compliance, shareholder services, recordkeeping, certain kinds of distribution charges, and other operating costs. This ICI study found that, on average, fund expenses for long-term mutual funds have declined substantially for more than 20 years.
Source: Ici.org, April 2018
Abstract: The Trump administration unveiled guidance aimed at the burgeoning socially responsible investment industry that left some investors scratching their heads. The Department of Labor, which oversees retirement-plan funds, published guidelines that said investments based on environmental, social and governance issues aren't always a "prudent choice" and that such factors shouldn't "too readily" be considered as economically relevant by fiduciaries.
Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), April 2018
Abstract: Like good design, people know a good fiduciary process when they see it. When replacing a poorly performing investment in a fiduciary account, follow these best practices to ensure fiduciary compliance.
Source: Fi360.com, March 2018
Abstract: When a person is appointed or is being sought to be member of a retirement plan committee, the natural question is to understand exactly what the person is committing to. Simply stated, a committee member is a fiduciary, who is expected to always act on behalf of plan participants, using the care of a person familiar with retirement plans and investments. This article covers the specifics on the role and responsibilities of being a fiduciary.
Source: Planpilot.com, March 2018
Abstract: Traditionally, the governing committee for 401k and 403b plans have been called "investment committees" which can cause confusion and might even be harmful. They should be called "retirement committees" or even "benefits committees." Here's why.
Source: 401ktv.com, February 2018
Abstract: The author reviews a few key problems he has seen over the years in the operation of retirement plan committees.
Source: Fiduciaryplangovernance.com, February 2018
Abstract: This is an aspect of committees where there is generally a woeful lack of understanding of the commitment that is being made. This article discusses making a committee position offer (what plan sponsors should be thinking about), formalizing appointments, removals, and resignations.
Source: Fiduciaryplangovernance.com, January 2018
Abstract: When considering committee meetings, it's a mistake to think only about the time spent in the meeting itself. In fact, this time is by far the least important part of a committee meeting. In fact, meetings start well before the meeting itself and end well after it.
Source: Fiduciaryplangovernance.com, January 2018
Abstract: Committees serve at the pleasure of an appointing entity, usually a board of directors that gives them discretionary authority over key aspects of plan operations, investments, and administration. Committees are accountable to that appointing entity for their actions.
Source: Fiduciaryplangovernance.com, January 2018
Abstract: Plan sponsors are not legally compelled to set up committees. Most standardized plan documents give plan sponsors the flexibility to set one up or not. But just because you are not required to do something doesn't mean it's not a good idea.
Source: Fiduciaryplangovernance.com, January 2018
Abstract: More than one-third, 35%, of asset managers have made the introduction of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing a high priority, and another 57% say they are placing a moderate level of priority on the task. Together, this makes for a full 92% of asset managers on the path to or considering offering ESG investing options, according to the December issue of The Cerulli Edge.
Source: Planadviser.com, December 2017
Abstract: How can plan sponsors build an investment menu that will facilitate improved long-term participant outcomes? Investment Menu Construction discusses how findings from behavioral economists can help guide the construction of an investment lineup that will make participant decision-making easier.
Source: Arnerichmassena.com, November 2017
Abstract: Effective governance of their DC plans helps employers meet fiduciary responsibilities, abide by regulatory requirements, and minimize the risk of litigation and negative press. This 13-page report identifies ways in which committee structure, composition -- and even the number of meetings and those responsible for meeting agendas -- have important implications for the priorities, challenges, and effectiveness of DC plan governance.
Source: Callan.com, October 2017
Abstract: In the complex and litigation-prone world DC plans occupy, it is important to underline what the real focal points for fiduciaries should be. Here are five guiding principles under ERISA that can aid fiduciaries in selecting and monitoring investment options and assessing active strategies within their plan lineups.
Source: Troweprice.com, September 2017
Abstract: The core lineup of most plans has remained largely unchanged over the past 20 years. The author suggests that it's time for DC plan sponsors to rethink these legacy investment lineups. This paper focuses reframing the design of actively managed options with an emphasis on fewer, broader investment options to ease participant decision making.
Source: Willistowerswatson.com, September 2017
Abstract: There's no one size fits all formula for building the "perfect" committee. A lot depends on the size and design of your plan, and the demographics of your participant population. Here are eight tips to help you set up and structure a committee that benefits your plan and acts in your participants' best interests.
Source: 401ktv.com, September 2017
Abstract: As advisers and others serving plans will attest, greater awareness doesn't necessarily mean that committee members understand their legal responsibilities or precisely what they should be doing as a plan fiduciary.
Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), September 2017
Abstract: Who are the right people to sit on your investment committee? The answer certainly seems straightforward, if only because most corporate committees maintain a list of the usual suspects. But are these the best ways to build an investment committee?
Source: Vanguardinstitutionalblog.com, July 2017
Abstract: As a plan sponsor, one of the many hats you probably wear is investment committee member. It's a role that's critical to the success of your retirement plan, but your specific responsibilities may not always be clearly defined or easy to figure out. This article offers some best practices.
Source: 401ktv.com, July 2017
Abstract: Courts, plan sponsors, and investment fiduciaries in general must be able to differentiate between nominal returns, load-adjusted, and risk-adjusted returns in order to (1) know when each is appropriate, and (2) to be able to properly determine whether a fund is providing commensurate value for higher fees in order to ensure that they are properly comparing "apples to apples" in order to act in the "best interests" of a plan and its participants.
Source: Iainsight.wordpress.com, June 2017
Abstract: Assessing the performance of your 401k investment advisor is often difficult. How can you tell if your 401k investment advisor is doing a good job? A few tips are provided in the short piece.
Source: Lawtonrpc.com, June 2017
Abstract: Maintaining an institutional investment program, including the oversight and responsibilities of acting as fiduciary, can be daunting to even the most seasoned investment committees. With so much involved in managing an investment portfolio, it's easy for committees to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture. The most successful investment committees support their organizations by using five best practices.
Source: Plantemoran.com, May 2017
Abstract: The purpose of this 21-page paper is to provide investment committee members with practical guidance on meeting their fiduciary responsibility through proper debate and documentation, constructing their committee thoughtfully with well-vetted leaders and members with diverse skills and backgrounds, conducting well-structured and productive meetings, and anticipating and resisting counterproductive behaviors.
Source: Vanguard.com, May 2017
Abstract: Pressures call into question the adequacy of today's core menus and should spark a discussion regarding how menus can evolve to help participants build for retirement. That discussion should begin by examining where participants are putting their money.
Source: Pionline.com, May 2017
Abstract: The marketplace is trending towards a redesign of the investment menu. This is being done through investment menu segmentation into behavior-based levels or tiers. Many plan sponsors and financial educators are finding this new tiered menu approach easier to communicate and simpler for employees to understand how to select investment options that may be most suitable for them.
Source: Fiallc.com, May 2017
Abstract: Investment committees carry weighty responsibilities. This 21-page paper offers insights into how committees can improve decision-making on behalf of their organizations.
Source: Vanguard.com, April 2017
Abstract: Many plan sponsors create oversight committees for their qualified retirement plans. The duties of these committees are significant and committee members are typically fiduciaries who need to act in a diligent, prudent manner, and in the best interest of the participant. This article covers seven of the most important best practices every plan committee should consider following.
Source: Meadenmoore.com, April 2017
Abstract: The resident plan fiduciaries (the company officers and key employees who act on behalf of the sponsor as plan administrator or trustee) have a legal duty to "select and monitor" plan investments and, in the case of sponsors who have hired investment professionals, to monitor not only investment performance but also the performance of the investment professionals. So, how do you "select and monitor"?
Source: Retirementplanblog.com, April 2017
Abstract: Plan sponsors face increasingly complex fiduciary requirements, as well as pressure to provide an optimal plan experience for participants at a reasonable cost. Making investment selection decisions under these conditions can prove challenging. This white paper aims to help fiduciaries navigate the waters of plan investment selection and monitoring processes.
Source: Troweprice.com, March 2017
Abstract: Investment in equity index funds -- and other passively-managed investments designed to track a market index -- is exploding. If you are a 401k fiduciary, this trend is great news. While it can be difficult for 401k fiduciaries to insulate themselves from investment-related liability using actively-managed funds, this job can be dead simple using index funds.
Source: Employeefiduciary.com, February 2017
Abstract: There are no specific legal requirements regarding the number of members or who should or should not sit on a retirement plan committee. However, there are common practices plan sponsors might keep in mind that can serve as guidelines for establishing this body.
Source: Plansponsor.com, February 2017
Abstract: Every plan, and every investment committee, is unique, and yet, conducted properly, there are inevitably areas of commonality. Here are some questions that could enhance the discussion, if not the outcome, at your next investment committee meeting.
Source: Asppa.org, January 2017
Abstract: The New Year is a perfect time to address many of the annual review items in the 401k compliance and governance checklist. As the New Year unfolds, plan sponsors may want to evaluate the composition of their Investment Committee.
Source: 401ktv.com, December 2016
Abstract: It's not enough to simply have an IPS. You also want to establish an engaged and informed investment committee, and task it with keeping your plan's IPS alive and well over time. While there is no such thing as a "perfect," one-size-fits-all investment committee, there are several broad factors to consider as you form and maintain a committee best suited for your plan. These include: committee size, make-up, operations and documentation procedures.
Source: Alliantwealth.com, December 2016
Abstract: The DOL's Final fiduciary rule is a significant regulatory initiative, and thus it is important to understand how it impacts retirement plan committees' fiduciary responsibilities and committee relationships with plan service providers. This article focuses on some of the implications the new fiduciary rule will have on retirement plan committee responsibilities.
Source: Wagnerlawgroup.com, September 2016
Abstract: This paper seeks to explore the various approaches to menu design and identify how plan demographics and participant behavior can aid in determining what may be most appropriate for a specific plan.
Source: Manning-Napier.com, August 2016
Abstract: The decisions which have the most negative impact on investment results tend to be associated with capitulating on a good strategy after a stretch of bad performance. In fact, capitulation can evolve into a pattern of selling low and buying high as the investor seeks to recoup foregone returns.
Source: Russell.com, June 2016
Abstract: A well-established and implemented investment policy statement is one of your best defenses against potential legal challenges in light of recent court rulings. But it's not enough just to create an investment policy statement, you must follow through on the review procedures it outlines.
Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), June 2016
Abstract: Plan sponsors have increasingly focused on finding low-cost investments and more transparent fee structures for their retirement plans, in part due to the increasing number of headlines related to fee-based litigation issues. This paper provides an overview of and trends surrounding CITs, and outlines what plan sponsors should consider when looking at adding CITs to their plan lineup.
Source: Porteval.com, June 2016
Abstract: As fiduciaries, plan sponsors are called upon to put participants' interests foremost in selecting and monitoring investments for their retirement plan. This 16-page paper proposes four best practices for constructing a 401k plan investment lineup. The best practices provide a road map that plan sponsors can use to evaluate and improve the investment offerings in their DC plans.
Source: Vanguard.com, April 2016
Abstract: Recent litigation has affected the process retirement plan fiduciaries use to select and monitor their investment options. This webinar helps you make sense of these changes and provide actionable advice for fiduciaries who select investment options.
Source: Multnomahgroup.com, February 2016
Abstract: The investment menu structure may be just as important as the actual investment options themselves. Properly done, a well-designed investment menu can direct behaviors and give participants the confidence they need to feel comfortable with their investment decisions.
Source: Strategicbenefitservices.com, February 2016
Abstract: Offers insight to managing economically targeted investments. The authors suggest that committees need to know the following when selecting investments that reflect ESG factors: Compare options in the same asset class against the market and consider each alternative using common measures; Understand whether ESG features will affect the expected return; and, Document the assessment that is made and monitor the decision frequently.
Source: Drinkerbiddle.com, February 2016
Abstract: Researchers with The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania strive to quantify participants' behaviors before and after a fundamental rethinking of the DC plan investment menu.
Source: Plansponsor.com, January 2016
Abstract: Every plan and investment committee is unique, and yet, conducted properly, there are inevitably areas of commonality. Here are some questions that could enhance the discussion, if not the outcome, of your next meeting.
Source: Asppa.org, December 2015
Abstract: Retirement plan committees, regardless of the size of the plan sponsor, can be an effective method of managing a retirement plan. This article, by attorney Ary Rosenbaum, is about how retirement plan sponsors can use a plan committee correctly and some of the things they should avoid by setting one up.
Source: Jdsupra.com, November 2015
Abstract: In addition to quantitative analysis, fiduciaries should consider applying qualitative factors, which can help detect organizational instability. Organizational instability, over time, usually leads to underperformance.
Source: Fi360.com, October 2015
Abstract: This guide is focused on the practical steps to take during the evaluation process -- which may include comparison and selection of TDFs, understanding their underlying investments, reviewing fees, developing communications, and documenting the process. It provides a checklist for periodic reviews, key questions to ask when following the DOL guidelines, and items to consider.
Source: Vanguard.com,, September 2015
Abstract: This article discusses the application of basic principles to the selection of plan investments and investment managers. It further considers this issue exclusively in the context of a 401k plan intended to comply with ERISA section 404(c), in which participants choose investments from a fund menu.
Source: Octoberthree.com, August 2015
Abstract: This reports key findings are: Mutual fund companies that are trustees of 401k plans must serve plan participants' needs, but they also have an incentive to promote their own funds; The analysis suggests that these trustees tend to favor their own funds, especially their poor-quality funds; That 401k participants do not offset this bias by shifting their savings away from trustee-affiliated funds; and, Fund companies serving as trustees often make decisions that appear to adversely affect employees' retirement security.
Source: Bc.edu, August 2015
Abstract: A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling may have an impact on employers who offer retirement defined contribution plans. The case fortifies the idea that continuous retirement plan monitoring and removal of imprudent investments is a critical duty of all investment fiduciaries and those that fail to do so could face costly litigation.
Source: Mcgladrey.com, July 2015
Abstract: Based on this case, past case law, as well as DOL publications including the most recently issued Field Assistance Bulletin 2015-02, there are six basic obligations a fiduciary must consider when selecting and monitoring investments.
Source: Fraplantools.com, July 2015
Abstract: With employees running the gamut from unengaged to motivated self-starters, employers face a challenge: How to assemble a core menu of investment options to serve all of their employees?
Source: Fidelity.com, July 2015
Abstract: This Checklist provides a list of issues that an investment or administrative committee of a 401k plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) should consider, including those raised by the US Supreme Court's recent decision in Tibble v. Edison Int'l.
Source: Practicallaw.com, July 2015
Abstract: Most participants in defined contribution (DC) plans are not on track to achieve retirement income adequacy. A key reason is that the investment lineups in most DC plans are structured in a way that reduces participants’ likelihood of implementing well-diversified and age-appropriate investment strategies. Since they are not investment experts, most DC participants would benefit from a simplified lineup.
Source: Aon.com, July 2015
Abstract: Retirement plan committees need knowledge and continuing education about a number of key subjects. And they need ongoing support to stay abreast of industry regulations and trends.
Source: Plansponsor.com, June 2015
Abstract: This paper addresses some of the issues that impact menu construction and investment product selection for defined contribution plans for the purpose of inspiring other sponsors to evaluate the harmony between their plan design and their menu construction.
Source: Multnomahgroup.com, June 2015
Abstract: A central thesis is that ongoing oversight is an exercise in risk management and that risk management is a never ending process. The article emphasizes the importance of (a) examining multiple risk factors and not relying on performance numbers alone, (b) understanding the presence of financial leverage (should it exist), (c) clarifying the role of a service provider when an outside party is used, and (d) letting participants know about the type of monitoring being done by an investment committee.
Source: Pensionriskmatters.com, May 2015
Abstract: This paper investigates whether mutual fund families acting as service providers in 401k plans display favoritism toward their own affiliated funds. Using a hand-collected dataset on retirement investment options, paper shows that affiliated mutual funds are less likely to be removed from and more likely to be added to a 401k menu.
Source: Pensionresearchcouncil.org, May 2015
Abstract: Tibble is unremarkable in that it broke no new ground; the ongoing "duty to monitor" has been long-recognized by both fiduciaries and attorneys alike. The principle take-away from Tibble is the reiteration of risk mitigation best practices for fiduciaries tasked with the selection of investment options for an ERISA plan.
Source: Benefitslawadvisor.com, May 2015
Abstract: As part of its CIT Awareness Week, the Coalition of Collective Investment Trusts released this 15 page white paper that provides a look at the history of collective investment trusts, an understanding of how the funds operate, their structure, and when they might be appropriate investment vehicles for eligible retirement plans.
Source: Ctfcoalition.com, March 2015
Abstract: Many plan sponsors have struggled with the dilemma of how to diversify or expand the menu of core asset classes offered in their plans without making it more complicated and confusing for participants. One potential remedy is white labeling, which simply means packaging the core lineup in a way that makes it easier for participants to understand and use.
Source: Invesco.com, March 2015
Abstract: This six page paper, produced by Fidelity Investments, reviews the conservative options available to DC plans, discuss the potential advantages/disadvantages of each type of fund offering, and highlight the investment and plan considerations associated with them.
Source: Fidelity.com, March 2015
Abstract: Fiduciaries who select investment menu options have many factors to consider. Such factors increasingly include plan participant demographics, which today means far more than participant ages and retirement timeframe. Article reviews some other demographic factors to consider.
Source: Benefitnews.com, March 2015
Abstract: Due diligence is the heart and soul of investment selection. A good due diligence process objectively whittles down the universe of available funds to just those that meet your high standards for inclusion in an investment portfolio. Here are seven qualitative factors that a fiduciary should consider implementing into their due diligence process.
Source: Fi360.com, February 2015
Abstract: The pivotal question under review by the Supreme Court is whether an imprudent fund selection decision by retirement plan fiduciaries constitutes a one-time breach or triggers a succession of breaches if the fiduciaries fail to address the imprudent position during investment-monitoring activities.
Source: Investmentnews.com (free registration may be required), January 2015
Abstract: There has been a steadily increasing acceptance of alternative investments as part of a retirement plan's investment portfolio, including in 401k plans. Their appeal lies in their unique asset classes and investment strategies which offer potentially higher returns, diversification, or downside risk protection. This article by Marcia Wagner discusses some of the issues raised by including alternative investments in 401k plan investment menus.
Source: Wagnerlawgroup.com, November 2014
Abstract: There are multiple reasons that could prompt a fiduciary committee to consider making changes in their retirement plan's investment lineup. Poor performance, eliminating duplicate and overlapping funds, expanding investments alternatives, organizational changes at the fund manager level, evaluation of fees, etc., are all potential reasons for considering investment alternative changes. This four page article summarizes the technical requirements and recommended procedures in making changes to your plan's investment lineup.
Source: Alston.com, November 2014
Abstract: Among approximately 75 large employers, nearly one-quarter (24%) are currently using a white label approach to naming defined contribution plan investment options, Aon Hewitt finds.
Source: Planadviser.com, September 2014
Abstract: While much time is spent selecting investment managers, not nearly enough time is spent in establishing a processing for terminating such managers, says a recent paper from the Strategic Investment Group.
Source: Planadviser.com, August 2014
Abstract: Most retirement plans today follow a rational investment process and keep it simple with a mix of good quality funds covering an appropriate spectrum of asset classes. But for every rule, there is an exception, and what Pete Swisher lays out in this article is just a sampling of the exceptions; interesting, risky, or downright stupid investments that illustrate useful lessons in retirement plans.
Source: Pentegra.com, July 2014
Abstract: Designing an industry "best practices" investment menu for a participant directed retirement plan requires a lot more thought than merely filling the Morningstar style boxes and calling it a day. Experience has shown that participants often frustrate the best intentioned expert who tries to build these investment line-ups. Understanding Behavioral Finance is key to overcoming many of the obstacles participants have when interacting with their plan's investment menu.
Source: Francisinvco.com, July 2014
Abstract: As the nation's demographics continue to change, studies have shown that more diverse investment committees often produce fresh perspectives and a greater level of deliberation before reaching decisions. In this paper, author Catherine Gordon of Vanguard Investment Strategy Group presents results from survey research on whether corporations and other organizations are embracing diversity on their investment committees.
Source: Vanguard.com, June 2014
Abstract: Good fundamental internal controls in the operation of retirement plans are the bedrock of fiduciary and compliance requirements. Retirement plan operations and internal controls are complicated, frequently ignored, and a potential source of significant compliance breaches. The fundamental tenants of good internal controls are segregation of duties, reporting & reconciliation, and oversight of outsourced administration functions. This paper will broadly discuss these fundamental tenants.
Source: Multnomahgroup.com, June 2014
Abstract: Given the variety of target-date options available in the marketplace today, how does a plan fiduciary determine which family is right for a specific plan? When evaluating target-date options, it is important to keep in mind that quantitative factors play an important role. However, there is much more to target-date options than a rating score or a performance track record over a single time period or environment.
Source: Manning-Napier.com, May 2014
Abstract: Most investment policy statements provide for a "watch list." An investment alternative is put on a watch list when the investment committee determines that a closer review of the alternative is necessary. The nature of the watch list process has the tendency to tempt a committee and its advisors to do the very thing that investors are warned to avoid: selling low and buying high.
Source: Bsk.com, May 2014
Abstract: Fiduciaries who outsource their investment responsibilities to third-party service providers must do so prudently, considering the interests of the plan and its participants, and in a manner consistent with the terms of the plan documents. This is an expert Q&A with David N. Levine and Allison Tumilty of Groom Law Group on issues employers should consider when outsourcing fiduciary investment responsibilities.
Source: Practicallaw.com, April 2014
Abstract: A responsible plan fiduciary wisely selects and monitors investment decisions. These decisions are supposed to be for the exclusive benefit of your employees and their beneficiaries. That includes both the providers and the investment decisions they make. To keep yourself from unnecessary scrutiny, you should prepare and adopt an investment policy statement. The Center for Fiduciary Studies views this as the most critical function a fiduciary performs.
Source: 401kadvisor.us, April 2014
Abstract: In today's regulatory and legal climate you should have an ERISA 3(21) investment advisor. This special type of investment advisor is defined by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and acts as a co-fiduciary on your plan. Is your 401k advisor a fiduciary?
Source: 401kadvisor.us, March 2014
Abstract: Investment committees play a key role in the deployment of the $18 trillion or so of institutional assets in the U.S. More often than not, it is an investment committee that establishes strategy, oversees critical asset allocation decisions and selects the people who take day-to-day responsibility for running the money. But how effective are investment committee meetings?
Source: Russell.com, March 2014
Abstract: A Massachusetts district court articulated two guiding principles for attorney-client exceptions to the general rule that favors disclosure, to participants, of the minutes of plan committee meetings. The decision in this case highlights the difficulty of establishing attorney-client privilege.
Source: Paulhastings.com, February 2014
Abstract: In this article, the author contends that, due to changes in the investment process, regulatory and legal environments, the procedures for oversight used by many plan sponsors may no longer be prudent. The article sets out a best practices approach to process, asset allocation and investment monitoring, including 10 analytics plan sponsors should focus on, intended to mitigate fiduciary liability for plan sponsors and improve the investment choices made available to participants.
Source: 401khelpcenter.com, January 2005.
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