2019 NAGDCA Leadership Award Recipients

NAGDCA Leadership Awards recognize excellence and innovation in retirement plan design, participant education, technology, and/or effective communication methods in government defined contribution plans.

Projects and campaigns from NAGDCA government members were eligible for nomination. NAGDCA’s Awards Committee served as judges to review nominations across the National Retirement Security Week, Participant Education and Effective Communication, Plan Design, and Technology and Social Media categories. The 2019 award recipients and details about their projects can be found below.

Participant Education & Communication

2018 Healthy Rewards Program

During 2018, the City of Milwaukee included the Deferred Compensation Plan and Voya Financial as part of its financial wellness component of our Healthy Rewards Program (the City’s incentive-based wellness program where participants can earn three levels of points to earn towards a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), up to $700 if a spouse also completes the program). The City awarded 5 Healthy Rewards Points for employees who attended a financial wellness seminar and 10 Healthy Rewards Points for employees who attended a one-on-one counseling session with a local Voya, onsite representative. The overall objective of incentivizing participants to connect through our financial wellness program is to both highlight the importance of financial wellness and to create pathways and opportunities for participant engagement. Participants who participated in the financial wellness component of the Healthy Rewards Program showed elevated levels of participation rates and average deferral rates.

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ERS Texa$aver Two-Step Campaign

When ERS wanted to educate and inform eligible state employees and current participants about the benefits of the Texa$aver 401(k) / 457 Program during their summer enrollment period, they required a format for delivering critical messages in a way that was accessible, entertaining and easy to understand.

To meet these criteria, ERS partnered with Empower Retirement to create the Texa$aver Two-Step campaign which utilized multifaceted, targeted and plan-wide campaign tactics created to support the idea that 1) enrolling or increasing a contribution can easily be accomplished in two online steps and 2) having the Texa$aver program as your savings “dance” partner means planning for retirement can be something simple and enjoyable — something more like dancing the Texas two-step. The cohesive eligible state employee and Texa$aver program participant outreach initiative was launched during ERS’s summer enrollment period (June 25 – July 27, 2018) and encouraged employees to maximize the use of investment resources available for retirement savings.

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Enrollment Campaign

This multimedia campaign was developed to increase participation in the TDA Program. Leveraging clean graphics and landmark New York City photos, we encouraged various groups of employees to enroll in the plan. We sent separate, targeted communications with different focuses that appealed to their specific needs and offered a clear call to action, all the while ensuring the on-site TDA Education Representatives, custom website and a multi-lingual phone line were stressed as helpful resources for employees considering enrollment.

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Transition Campaign 

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) provides public transit services to Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. SEPTA transitioned their 457(b) Plan to Prudential Retirement effective August 3, 2018.

The theme of the transition campaign was “Destination Retirement.” SEPTA transit services images were used, including buses, trolleys, subways and Regional Rail (the commuter rail). Over 9,500 in number, SEPTA employees work 24 hours a day, 7 days week to deliver safe, reliable service.

Participant outreach during the transition period included email blasts from SEPTA to employees, mailings to homes, and in-person meetings. Counselors were on the ground for table sits, and met with bus operators, regional train staff, transit police and administrative staff, accommodating their schedules and needs.

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Putting Alaskans on the path to financial readiness: winning the game of retirement

The State of Alaska’s strategic focus on helping their employees understand the importance of planning for their future and winning the game of retirement has made a marked difference in improving the likelihood of success for all Alaskans. Since April 2018, plan participants have benefited from easily recognizable and relatable plan materials that reflect the entire state of Alaska, additional local advisors to help better prepare them for their future and consistent and cohesive support from the state and their plan provider.

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Plan Design & Administration

Transitioning Education Specialists to MOSERS Employees

In July 2017, the State of Missouri Deferred Compensation Plan transitioned six field representative positions, otherwise known as education specialists, from the record keeper to MOSERS employees. This transition helped streamline education and marketing efforts, increased reporting and targeting capabilities, built a more recognizable and trusting relationship with state employers and employees and, in general, improved customer service to state of Missouri employees.

Online Enrollment Solution Launch

As the nation’s largest deferred compensation plan, the complexity of having more than 1,900 participating employers and individual pay centers is unique when fitting this structure into a linear technology solution. This meant non-standard requirements needed to be developed. In addition, with employees in non-traditional worksites, it was important to develop promotional materials that delivered a mobile-optimized experience, allowing enrollment to be completed on a smartphone after scanning a code on a poster.

The launch of the solution and promotional materials drove a 78% increase in enrollments the first month and a sustained 20% average increase for the first quarter over the prior year. In addition, employers provided unsolicited feedback about the benefits of the mobile promotion, stating that their employees enrolled via their smartphones in the first week and were impressed with how easy it was.

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Automatic Enrollment & Auto-Escalate to Boost Savings Rates

In 2016, San Mateo County implemented a provision to automatically enroll new hires at a 1% deferral rate. As a result of this effort, the County witnessed participation rates increase dramatically, from 62% to 82%, in a span of three years. This was a great success, however the automatic enrollment provision only applied to new hires and these new hires were saving at 1% of pay (far lower than recommended savings rates). Looking at the plan data, the County decided there was more we could do to help employees save adequately for retirement. We decided to make some additional plan design enhancements in 2019.

To boost participation and savings rates even further, the County negotiated with various collective bargaining units and management groups to implement an automatic enrollment and an auto-escalate feature (from 1% – 5%) for current non-saving employees and those saving under 5% of pay. We believe these new provisions will help County employees get even closer to reaching their retirement goals.

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GoalMaker 2.0 Implementation & Investment Changes

Plan design changes are a fact of life. Yet launching an enhanced investment lineup in tandem with revamping and expanding a custom asset allocation program while enhancing its glidepath—that ultimately impacted the majority of our 260K+ participant accounts—was a substantial undertaking. This resulted in close to one million small account-level transactions, completed in a series of overnight sweeps, followed by extensive testing and financial audits. In the end, NC 401(k) and NC 457 Plan participants saved $4.1 million in reduced investment management fees, the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer increased its plans’ asset allocation models by 125 percent, and all asset allocation program participants experienced the new glidepath to and through retirement.

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Deemed IRA

The Wyoming Retirement System had known of the benefits of adding a deemed IRA to its 457 Plan for several years, and formally discussed it as early as 2013. There are significant administrative complexities and potential cost in administering a deemed IRA, as listed below:

  • Unregistered investment products — CITs and separate accounts – cannot be used in Deemed IRAs
  • Custodian of Deemed IRA must either be a bank or have special IRS authorization
  • not commonly available or understood

These have been barriers and although federal law was changed in 2002 to allow deemed IRAs, only a handful of deemed IRAs exist. WRS’ 457 Committee and staff met in January 2018 and made a commitment to bring the research and analysis for the initiative to culmination in 2018. The goal was to either put together compelling information to achieve WRS Board support for approving a Deemed IRA, or retire the project having determined the cost and complexity would outweigh the benefits.

At its meeting in November 2018, the WRS Board passed a motion approving the deemed IRA in concept, and requesting staff to develop a go to market plan for launch. This show of support by the WRS Board indicates it is feasible and beneficial to launch a Deemed IRA. It was a dramatic culmination of the intensive efforts of staff, trustees, consultants and service providers. The administrative ground work having been laid, a future opening of the Deemed IRA is planned for January 1, 2020.

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Technology & Social Media

City of Austin Deferred Compensation Plan Automated Emails and Digital Enroll Campaign

Knowing their participants and employees prefer digital forms of communication, the City of Austin Deferred Compensation Committee, in partnership with Empower Retirement, is focusing on technological and digital solutions to encourage participants and eligible employees to take action by becoming more engaged with their retirement savings goals and/or enrolling in the City’s deferred compensation plan. To encourage more engagement among its participants, the technology of using automated, personalized emails – that go to the right participant at the right time based on their personal retirement savings data and age – has been implemented by the City’s committee to send on an ongoing annual basis. Additionally to drive further retirement savings awareness among employees, the City launched a targeted and entirely digital campaign in March 2018 to encourage eligible employees to close their retirement income gap by enrolling in the 457 plan. Both of these digital communication solutions use technology to help bring City of Austin employees closer to their retirement income goals.

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Web Registration and Financial Wellness Online Platform Upgrade

According to a 2016 PWC Employee Financial Wellness survey, 78% of Human Resources professionals say financial issues impact employees’ performance. And 28% of employees say financial stress affects their health. As a result, employee productivity is considerably impacted by financial stress. Given countless statistics like these, Nassau County took advantage of a new financial wellness transactional website technology upgrade so their employees can now have access to holistic financial wellness education and tools to reduce financial stress and improve productivity. The purpose of this upgrade and campaign was to encourage employees to register online and take advantage of the new Financial Wellness interface and content, thereby addressing the fundamental underpinnings of financial stress among employees.

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Crowdsourcing for Website Design

One of Ohio Deferred Compensation’s unique aspects is its internally managed recordkeeping system, rather than the more common practice of outsourcing this function to a service provider. Over the past four years, Ohio DC has gone through a process of replacing a 20+ year old recordkeeping system, by internally developing and implementing a new recordkeeping system to serve participants well into the future. As part of the larger recordkeeping modernization effort, it was determined that Ohio DC should develop a new participant website, to allow for a modernized look and feel, more direct control over the content on the website and also the security and privacy of participant’s financial data. This process has included contractors DXC and Perspecta, as well as Ohio DC staff. Based on conversations with staff and contractors, Ohio DC developed the following minimum system requirements for the new website:

  • Modernize existing legacy system and user experience
  • Create an updated look and feel/ design and prototype for review
  • Use a responsive and liquid design (multiple form factor support)
  • WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA and section 508 Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility compliance
  • Incorporate Ohio DC colors and logos
  • Improve website navigation based on legacy website research output

Once the system requirements were established, the team determined the best method for developing the overall design of the website and individual webpages would be a new process called Crowdsourcing . The Crowdsourcing model pulls resources from a global pool of more than one million people, who encompass a wide array of design background and experience. Crowdsourcing also allows organizations to:

  • have rapid access to next-generation skills at scale
  • eliminate the complexity of identifying, onboarding and engaging the right people to work on projects
  • decrease costs by allowing organizations to pay only for the application designs, wireframes and prototypes selected among the many that are offered
  • validate application ideas through prototyping, with results available in days or weeks, not months

Using Crowdsourcing, Ohio DC was able to realize a 50% cost reduction, based on initial estimates, along with significantly decreased design time. The Crowdsourcing resources were able to nearly double the total number of unique webpages designed from the estimate of 75 to 144 with no increase in project duration. Implementation of the new website is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2019, but the design phase was completed this past October. The project ran from May 2018 to October 2018. A link to an informational video about Ohio DC’s use of Crowdsourcing is included in the attached PDF. Based on the positive results achieved by Ohio DC and the overall ease of use of the Crowdsourcing process, this should be very feasible for similarly sized organizations.

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One Minute Video Multichannel Campaign

Savings Plus produced five “One Minute Videos” that generated over 10,028 interactions and 48,570 social impressions. This equates to approximately $446,400 in annual increased assets and a reduction of over 561 hours in operational and participant time. The videos were distributed through multiple channels, including the state’s social media presence of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as traditional channels on Savings Plus’ website and email communications to state employees. The videos featured Savings Plus and Nationwide staff in relatable life settings, including a park where kids play and people, individuals or neighbors walk through the neighborhood. These relatable settings reinforced to the viewer that Savings Plus is there for them wherever they are.

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Hybrid 457 Deferred Compensation Plan Voluntary Contribution Savings Initiative

In 2018, the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) successfully promoted the importance of saving more for retirement to Hybrid Retirement Plan members through the launch of four initiatives; GoHybrid, Enhanced Active Choice Splash Screen, SmartStep and the Paycheck Calculator. These initiatives resulted in an increased voluntary contribution savings rate in the defined contribution component of the plan – the Hybrid 457 Deferred Compensation Plan. The objective of each initiative was to motivate hybrid plan members to maximize voluntary contributions to receive the full employer matching contribution and provide additional retirement income to meet their future goals.

The GoHybrid feature is designed to allow newly-hired hybrid plan members to preset Hybrid 457 voluntary contribution amount before their employer enrolls them with VRS. With the enhanced active choice splash screen, VRS continued to encourage positive savings behaviors for hybrid plan members. Members who saw the message could choose to either save 4 percent now, choose an amount to save, or wait to save. The paycheck calculator allowed hybrid plan members to visualize making contributions to their retirement account on a pre-tax basis could have on their paycheck as part of the savings decision.

For those hybrid plan members who are unable to save the maximum 4 percent voluntary contribution to the Hybrid 457 Plan, the SmartStep feature makes it easier for members to opt-in to increase their voluntary contributions on an annual basis at an amount they choose.

As a result, hybrid plan members contributing the maximum percent to the Hybrid 457 Plan to receive the full employer match increased by 45 percent. Of the hybrid plan members utilizing the GoHybrid feature, 87.5 percent set their voluntary contribution deferral amount to the maximum 4 percent. The enhanced active choice splash screen had a positive effect on 96.5 percent of hybrid plan members who increased their voluntary contributions. Approximately 63 percent of members who saw the splash screen contributed the maximum of 4 percent. Usage of the paycheck calculator increased by 94 percent, as members visualized the impact saving could have on their paycheck.

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National Retirement Security Week

National Retirement Security Week “Name That Year!”

National Retirement Security Week is a perfect opportunity to engage all of the City’s 45,000 plus employees who are eligible or already participating in the City’s Deferred Compensation Plan (Plan). Staff wanted to create an interactive program that was fun, engaging, and utilized gamification. Staff developed a quiz that incorporated fun facts from Plan throughout its history and provided additional prize incentives to participants. Staff also engaged the Mayor’s Office and City Council to help raise the profile of NRSW throughout the campaign.

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Texa$aver Get Financially Fit National Retirement Security Month Campaign

In October 2018, ERS wanted to educate and inform participants about the benefits of the Texa$aver 401(k) / 457 Program during National Retirement Security Week. In order to reach as many state employees as possible, ERS partnered with Empower Retirement to deliver these critical benefits in a way that was accessible, impactful, entertaining and easy to understand over the entire month of October rather than just one week.

To meet the above criteria, the Get Financially Fit National Retirement Security Month digital campaign utilized multifaceted, targeted and plan-wide campaign tactics created to support the idea that with the Texa$aver program, saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. This cohesive National Retirement Security Month outreach initiative ran October 1 – October 31, 2018, encouraging employees to maximize the use of investment resources available through the Texa$aver program to increase their retirement savings fitness health.

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Explore Your Financial Future – PERS/OSGP Expo ’18

The Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and the Oregon Savings Growth Plan (OSGP) are two retirement plan benefits provided by the State of Oregon for its employees. PERS serves the people of Oregon by administering public employee benefit trusts to pay the right person the right benefit at the right time.  OSGP is a voluntary 457(b) deferred compensation plan that provides public employees with a supplement to their PERS pension that helps save for retirement. To recognize and celebrate National Retirement Security Week, PERS and OSGP presented the PERS/OSGP Expo ’18 at the Convention Center in Salem, Oregon for all state and local public employees. This is an annual event that provides education about the various benefits of state and local public employment in one place, at one time. The event took place on both floors of the Convention Center and its entire ballroom meeting space was utilized for planning workshops and education. The collective efforts were aimed to help all Oregon public employees, from new hires to retirees, and everyone in between, to learn about their benefits in a fun and educational space.

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Maui Employee Benefits Fair Celebrates National Retirement Security Week

The Island $avings Plan held an employee benefits fair to celebrate and promote National Retirement Security Week (NRSW) (October 21–27, 2018) for Maui State and County Employees on October 23, 2018 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. The overall goal was to follow NADGCA’s “Whole Story” theme and promote the importance of supplementing income from the State’s traditional pension and Social Security by enrolling in, and/or deferring more to, the Island $avings Plan. The fair featured five workshops in a variety of topics to meet the financial wellness needs of the different generations who make up the workforce. Attendees also had the opportunity to take part in the “Aging Booth” – where they could meet their “future self” via a digital app which aged a personal photo, think about retirement planning, and take action sooner rather than later.

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National Retirement Security Month

Starting October 1 through October 31, 2018, the New Hampshire Deferred Compensation Plan recognized National Retirement Security Week (NRSW) as a month-long event to educate and inform participants about getting closer to their retirement income goals by participating and/or increasing contributions to their Plan. Extending the week-long campaign to a full month was crucial in order to provide access to as many participants as possible. By drawing attention to National Retirement Security Week during a month-long multifaceted education email and in person campaign, we were able to provide 53 group presentations and 418 individual meetings during a four-week period. These meetings highlighted the importance of enrolling, while also educating participants about the tools available to help them bridge the retirement savings gap as they work toward their retirement goals.

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