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Eddy Awards Honor Excellence in Investment Education

March 28, 2006
Related Topics: Featured Article, Compensation, Benefits
From puzzles to a game show, getting participants involved in investment education proved the winning theme among the 2006 Eddy Award recipients.

   The awards, co-sponsored by Workforce Management and Pensions & Investments, were presented February 28 at the conclusion of the 14th annual P&I/IBF Defined Contribution/401(k) Conference in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

   The awards recognize the best practices among corporate, public and union plan sponsors in delivering creative and effective investment education messages to defined-contribution plan participants. Winning plan sponsors do the best job at creatively offering employees a thorough education in investing. One important criterion: The campaigns must have strong branding with the sponsor and be more than just generic materials from the service provider.

A total of 28 awards were given. First-place honors went to:

  • In the special projects category: M.A. Mortenson Co., Minneapolis, for companies with fewer than 5,000 employees; Avaya Inc., Basking Ridge, New Jersey, for companies with more than 5,000 employees; the State of Tennessee Deferred Compensation Program, Nashville, for public funds; and IBEW & Electrical Industry Local 697, Hammond, Indiana, for union plans.

  • In the initial education campaign category: ServiceMaster Co., Downers Grove, Illinois, for corporate plans with more than 5,000 employees; and the State of Oregon’s Savings Growth Plan, Salem, for public plans. For corporate plans with fewer than 5,000 employees, National Gypsum Co., Charlotte, North Carolina, won first place. For corporate plans with fewer than 1,000 employees, the Beck Group, Dallas, and Swales Aerospace, Beltsville, Maryland, tied for first place. The Aurora (Colorado) Police Money Purchase Plan won for public plans with fewer than 1,000 employees.

  • In the ongoing education category: Crossmark Inc., Plano, Texas, for companies with fewer than 5,000 employees; MGM Mirage, Las Vegas, for companies with more than 5,000 employees; and the Electrical Contractors’ Association and IBEW Local 134, Chicago, for union plans. Among corporate plans with fewer than 1,000 employees, Wade-Trim Group Inc., Taylor, Michigan, took first place. T-Mobile USA Inc., Bellevue, Washington, won for corporate plans with fewer than 5,000 employees; and the State of Texas Texa$aver Program won for public plans.

  • In the video category: HNI Corp., Muscatine, Iowa.

  • In the new-media category: Kansas City, Missouri.

Puzzle theme
   M.A. Mortenson’s winning special projects entry featured an interactive campaign using jigsaw and crossword puzzles. One judge called the campaign "lively, very colorful and fun."

   Annette Grabow, manager of retirement benefits, said the company wanted something fun to capture participants’ attention, adding that she was pleased with the way the materials came out. Wells Fargo Retirement Plan Services Inc. is the service provider for the $50 million 401(k) plan.

   The State of Tennessee Deferred Compensation Program, Nashville, won for public funds in the special projects category for its $677 million 401(k) plan

   Tennessee paid tribute to its booming music industry through targeted posters. One poster talks about jazzing up the plan, stating: "It doesn’t matter if you’re a little bit country or a little bit rock and roll. This great news is music to everyone’s ears."

   "It’s sharply focused and targeted," said one judge.

  "It’s very Tennessee," said another judge, referring to the scenery in photos.

   Beth Chapman, director of deferred compensation at the Tennessee fund, gave the credit to her predecessor at the plan, Deana Hanna, and Great-West Retirement Services for coming up with the theme.

   "It’s important to have something that catches their eye. That makes employees pay attention," Chapman said. "I think the whole campaign looks great."

For "dummies"
   Avaya Inc., Basking Ridge, New Jersey, snagged first place for a special project for more than 5,000 employees with its creative "Avaya 401(k) for Dummies." Put together with help from Fidelity Investments and Wiley Publishing, Avaya produced "For Dummies" posters and books for its $1.3 billion 401(k) plan. The campaign also featured Dum Dum lollipops and Smarties candies.

   "They took a well-known brand and customized it for the company. There’s nothing off the shelf here," said one judge.

   "The graphics are cute," said another judge, "but it’s important that they carried the theme through--posters, balloons, key chains. It’s all branded, which makes it great."

   Bruce Lasko, senior manager of human resources global benefits, said: "We wanted to do something special for 401(k) Day, something everyone would recognize. Everyone recognizes ‘For Dummies.’ It’s a great brand. Everything came together with Fidelity and Wiley perfectly."

   Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., New York, came in second with its "Squirrel Away a Little More This Year" campaign, a special project for 401(k) Day. With its provider, Wells Fargo Retirement Solutions, the company created creative and eye-catching materials.

   "The green and yellow color scheme really grabs your attention," said one judge.

Well branded
   The Oregon Savings Growth Plan, with $770 million in assets, won for its nature theme "Navigating You Through Life’s Terrain," prepared with help from CitiStreet LLC. Judges noted that Oregon’s brand was on every page. "It’s beautiful, personalized and easy to follow," said one judge.

   Judges also gave Oregon kudos for offering information on the impact of expense ratios and a separate sheet disclosing information about fees, something few plan sponsors include.

   Gay Lynn Bath, deferred-compensation manager for Oregon’s plan, said she wanted the materials to be informative as well as visually appealing.

   The Beck Group, an architectural and construction firm, created its "Building a Better Retirement" campaign from its corporate brand. The company had help from T. Rowe Price Retirement Plan Services. Judges thought the materials were subtle, but tailored, easy to read and effective.

   Swales Aerospace, with Principal Financial Group, used space-themed graphics throughout its campaign. "The graphics really jump out at you," said one judge.

The personal touch
   Crossmark, which took first place in ongoing education with fewer than 5,000 employees, chose a personalization theme. The company created a series of informative brochures that featured a grocery aisle motif, playing off the company’s business. One judge deemed the materials "totally branded. It’s clear from start to finish that this is a grocery chain. It’s very clear for employees."

   One judge said the grocery theme really came across in the slogan "Are You in the Market?" The campaign for the $98 million 401(k) plan also included a candy tin in the education materials that said, "A little taste of what’s in store for you."

   Rodger Fisher, vice president of human resources for Crossmark, said he came up with the idea for the campaign depicting different grocery aisles as paths you could take to retirement. "We are a grocery business, so we wanted the materials to reflect that. I went to MFS (Retirement Services) with the idea and they liked it, and helped the vision come across. MFS supported us through the whole process," he said.

   National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., came in second place for corporate plans with fewer than 5000 employees with its "Every Great Adventure Begins With a Dream" campaign. Principal Financial is the plan’s provider. Judges found the visuals, similar to those found in National Geographic magazine, "lovely" and "just plain pretty."

   MGM Mirage used age-specific mailings on asset allocation in its winning campaign. "The message is focused and fun," said one judge. MGM, with help from MFS Retirement, had participants choose their investment style by risk tolerance. The choices were color-coded, with participants receiving a T-shirt in the same color as their investment style. "It’s such a cute idea," said one judge.

   Wade-Trim Group, an engineering firm, won favor with the judges by providing each participant--with help from provider Putnam Investments--with a personal analysis of their salary and retirement needs. "It can’t get much more personal than that," said one judge.

   The personalized brochures featured the theme "Make Money on Your Money."

   Timothy McKindles, people services group manager for the $20 million 401(k) plan, said: "We wanted it to look great, of course, but we are really proud that we boosted participation to 92 percent (from 82 percent)."

No talking heads here
   HNI Corp., Muscatine, Iowa, won first place in the video category. HNI’s video featured employees and top executives explaining the benefits of the company’s $544 million 401(k) plan in a relaxed, natural way.

   "It was great how they used people on the shop floor as well as top people at the corporation," said one judge.

   "The testimonials were presented really well. It was done very naturally," said another judge.

   Bob Foster, vice president of compensation and benefits, said: "We were really focused on getting employees in the video. It made it really personal." Foster credits Fidelity with putting the video together and making it work.

Game show theme
   Kansas City’s campaign, prepared with help from Point Productions and Nationwide Financial Services Inc., used a game show theme with the slogan "Retirement Jeopardy" for its new-media entry. Participants were given answers on topics including asset allocation, diversification and risk.

   The judges liked the interactive nature of the program and the education materials that followed each Jeopardy answer. "It really grabs your attention. And you can picture people playing this game," said one judge.

   Rick Boersma, retirement systems executive officer for Kansas City’s $95 million 457 plan, who also lent his voice to the program as one of the players, said: "We wanted to make it fun for employees, but we also wanted them to learn something. I think we got it right."

--Jenna Gottlieb, Pensions & Investments

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