"The Excellence & Innovation Awards showcase the top work taking place across the country by defined contribution executives who are committed to improving retirement security for their participants," said Julie Tatge, Chicago-based executive editor of Pensions & Investments. "By recognizing these individuals and teams, we aim to inspire and spark ideas that other plan sponsors can adopt for their plans."
Lew Minsky, DCIIA's president and CEO, said judges were impressed by the measures plan sponsors are taking to improve retirement outcomes for America's workers. "In the face of seemingly endless challenges, competing priorities and changing market cycles, it's heartening to see how these plan sponsor initiatives have continued to evolve since we co-founded these awards with P&I," Mr. Minsky said.
The winners are:
- Hunter Bethea, director of deferred compensation programs, Tennessee Department of Treasury, and his team. Mr. Bethea, along with his team, oversaw a campaign aimed at helping high-need participants in the state's 401(k) plan through one-on-one meetings with financial advisers.
- Karla Kirkling, executive director of health care and benefits, Chicago Public Schools. Under Ms. Kirkling's direction, Chicago Public Schools downsized its three record keepers to a single provider, reducing participant fees.
- Marco Merz, managing director and head of defined contribution, UC investments, University of California; and Hyun Swanson, interim executive director, systemwide human resources, University of California. Mr. Merz and Ms. Swanson worked with their plan providers to become the nation's first employer to offer its DC plan participants a QLAC that's embedded in the plan's target-date funds.
- Christopher Moss, senior manager of employee benefits, Sonoco Products Co. Mr. Moss led the overhaul of the company's 401(k) plan following the company's closure of its pension plan. As part of the revamp, the company boosted its 401(k) company match and eliminated its non-elective contribution.
- Kim Olson, director of retirement plans, Wespath Benefits and Investments. Ms. Olson oversaw the upgrade of a retirement income modeling tool that now allows its 403(b) plan participants to factor in two new options when planning their drawdown strategies. One option lets participants use part of their account balances early in retirement so they can delay claiming their Social Security benefits. The other allows them to buy a QLAC that provides guaranteed income beginning at age 80.
- Allyson Tucker, chief executive officer of Washington State Investment Board. Ms. Allyson oversaw an initiative to add a mini or "unitized" version of its defined benefit plan to the target-date funds offered in its defined contribution plan. The effort gave its DC participants exposure to private market investments that they otherwise would not have.
- American Express Retirement Team. A team at American Express led the redesign of the company's 401(k), which included the implementation of a non-discretionary company contribution that rewarded its lower-paid workers more than its higher-paid employees.