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Creative Tricks for Defined-Contribution Enrollment

February 21, 2007
Related Topics: Retirement/Pensions, Benefit Design and Communication, Latest News
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Creative investment education programs that garnered results dominated the 2007 Eddy Awards this month, with many winners seeing increases in their plan enrollment and deferral rates, attendance at workshops and requests for more plan information—all thanks to clever and memorable workplace campaigns. The awards, sponsored by Pensions & Investments, were presented on February 12 at the P&I/IBF Defined Contribution/401(k) Conference in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The awards recognize the best practices among corporate, public, union and not-for-profit employers in delivering creative and effective investment education messages to defined-contribution plan participants. To win, plan sponsors must find a creative way to give employees a thorough education in investing. One important criterion: The campaigns must show strong branding with the plan sponsor, and not be stock materials from the service provider.

A total of 30 awards were given at the 2007 Eddy Awards, more than in any previous year.

In the special projects category, Phelps Dodge Co., Phoenix, won for companies with more than 5,000 employees; Marubeni America Corp., New York, for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees; and the City of Baltimore Deferred Compensation Plan for public plans.

In the initial education campaign category, American Electric Power Inc., Columbus, Ohio, and Brookshire Grocery Co., Tyler, Texas, tied for corporate plans with more than 5,000 employees. Tree of Life Inc., St. Augustine, Florida, won first place for corporate plans with fewer than 5,000 employees.

In the ongoing education category, Hyatt Corp., Chicago, won top honors for corporate plans with more than 5,000 employees; Panalpina Inc., Redwood Shores, California, won first place for corporate plans with 1,000 to 5,000 employees; and Justin Brands Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, was first for plans with fewer than 1,000 employees. Trinity Health, Farmington Hills, Michigan, was first for not-for-profit companies, and New Jersey Transit, Maplewood, took the trophy for public plans.

Phelps Dodge’s special projects campaign used a baseball theme to target the company’s men who were not participating in the $700 million 401(k) plan. They received Cracker Jack and baseball cards, with bullet points about the importance of saving for retirement, during the campaign, which coincided with baseball season. The judges especially liked that the theme carried through the entire campaign and all the education pieces fit together. More important, 20 percent of non-participants requested additional information. JPMorgan Retirement Plan Services Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, is the plan provider.

MGM Mirage, Las Vegas, which took second place in the corporate special projects category for plans with more than 5,000 employees, featured a sunscreen theme. While judges liked the summer beach idea, they were more impressed with the results of the education initiative: Almost 8 percent of the target population enrolled in the $460 million 401(k) plan by the end of the campaign. MFS Retirement Services Inc., Boston, is MGM’s service provider.

The $230 million City of Baltimore Deferred Compensation Plan won first place for public plans in the special projects category. Judges liked how the campaign featured photos and testimonials of employees, all well-known within their union group. The campaign also included mini-toolkit and pen giveaways. One judge said, “It was very inviting and didn’t feel hokey at all. The testimonials were meaningful and thoughtful.”

The $900 million State of Hawaii Deferred Compensation Plan, Honolulu, which won second place in the public plan category for special projects, featured flip-flop key chains and small fans with retirement messages lighting up as the blades spun.

Trustee Carol Raber said Hawaii’s provider, Citistreet, “did a great job helping us put the materials together. We wanted it to have a very Hawaiian feeling, and I think it worked out great. Employees loved the key chains and fans. They were fun and also had good information on them,” she said.

M.A. Mortenson Co. won in the Eddys’ “other media” category for a flash e-mail that featured the company’s CEO as a bobble-head doll. The message was part of an effort to draw more employees to education workshops. The $50 million 401(k) plan saw a 29 percent increase in attendance.

“I wish I got e-mails like that,” said one judge.

“It was really unique that they used their CEO as a character, instead of as a regular talking head,” another said.

Annette Grabow, manager of retirement benefits, said the CEO is revered among employees, and it was a great way to get more employees interested in attending the meetings. Wells Fargo Institutional Trust Services, Minneapolis, is the provider.

For a complete list of the Eddy winners, click here.

 

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