2021 NAGDCA Leadership Award Recipients

Congratulations to the 2021 NAGDCA Leadership Recognition Award recipients! The awards recognize the brightest ideas and most innovative solutions from across the public sector defined contribution industry. Projects and campaigns from NAGDCA government members were eligible for nomination in five categories: COVID-19 Response, National Retirement Security Month, Participant Education & Communication, Plan Design & Administration, Technology & Interactive Multimedia. Nominations were reviewed by the 2021 Awards Committee, and judged on originality and measurable results.

We encourage you to click below to learn more about the innovative, award-winning projects and campaigns!

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COVID-19 Response

Retirement Plans COVID-19 Response

As an essential public transportation system serving the San Francisco Bay Area, BART quickly realized the risk and impact of the deadly COVID-19 virus to its employees and business, as well as the local community and businesses it serves. BART sought to support and protect employees, educate the community, and safely avoid interruptions to its essential services. BART planned and executed a multi-prong strategic COVID-19 response, including a communications and safety plan with real-time information, innovative solutions to keep the community working, and financial education and relief options for BART retirement plan participants.

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Ready, Set, Communicate!

In March 2020, the County responded to pandemic-imposed constraints adopting a Ready, Set, Communicate! approach to communication and education. This meant pivoting to a virtual engagement model with the goals of protecting the health and safety of participants and Plan representatives, increasing the frequency and scope of communications, communicating in a more efficient and targeted way and helping participants improve retirement outcomes.

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DC Virtual Investment Fair

District’s Office of Finance and Treasury and its Department of Human Resources hosted a virtual financial wellness investment fair to coincide with National Retirement Security Month.

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Island $avings Plan Virtual Benefits Fair

At the height of the Governor’s announcement on the stay-at-home orders for State of Hawaii workers, planning of the spring Employees’ Benefits Fair had started the month prior and was already underway. With the unexpected pandemic event evolving, an alternative solution was needed. The idea of planning a virtual venue to transform the live Island $avings Plan Fair became exciting. During this time of social isolation, the vision, working with Prudential Retirement, was to be able to bring all employees, across the island chain, together for this statewide event. This new concept would allow the Plan to continue educating and bringing Plan-related updates and information to employees and to break through the barriers of the physical distancing mandates and travel restrictions.

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Virtual Pandemic Response

In 2020, the world was forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 quickly spread across the globe, states across the U.S. began implementing strategies to prepare and brace for the impact of this new virus. The Virginia Retirement System (VRS) acted quickly, creating a new playbook to help keep members, employers and retirees informed, educated and on track for retirement.

Given the uncertainty around the virus, increased market volatility and legislation enacted to meet these challenges early in the pandemic, VRS partnered with MissionSquare Retirement (formerly ICMA-RC), the third-party record keeper for its defined contribution plans (DCP), to develop strategic initiatives, including adopting new plan provisions for coronavirus-related relief, developing staying connected communications and virtual retirement education opportunities.

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National Retirement Security Month

CalSTRS Pension2 National Retirement Security Month Campaign

CalSTRS operates seven Member Service Centers throughout the state of California. Prior to the pandemic, the Member Service Centers offered in-person, walk-in service, scheduled individual appointments, group educational seminars, and various life-stage specific events throughout the year. With the Member Service Centers having to close to the public due to the pandemic, being unable to offer in-person services and events threatened to hamper our ability to be there for our members. To continue to offer retirement planning information and education, but in a virtual environment, we created a comprehensive webinar series during National Retirement Security Month to further showcase how Pension2 can help supplement members’ retirement income. The webinars were developed around life-stage: early-career, mid-career, nearing-retirement and general audiences. We offered a different webinar series each week of National Retirement Security Month in an effort to provide targeted information to all of our audience segments.

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NRSM 2020 – LA’s the Place!

On October 1, 2020, the City of Los Angeles Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP) staff, in partnership with their Third- Party Administrator (TPA), Voya, launched their annual campaign for National Retirement Security Month (NRSM). The primary objective of the campaign was to encourage participation and increased savings and promote greater awareness of the services and features offered by the DCP. The City’s NRSM campaign was entitled, “LA’s The Place!” The LA’s The Place! quiz used a gamified tour of City of Los Angeles landmarks to simultaneously promote participation, increased saving, and greater awareness of DCP services and features (including our blogs as well as virtual group and individual meetings). An interactive quiz was accompanied by a weekly raffle of prizes. This fun, engaging approach garnered our highest ever campaign participation – more than doubling our campaign participation numbers from last year’s campaign!

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Virtual Road Trip to Retirement

In October 2020, the Massachusetts 457 Deferred Compensation SMART Plan sought to educate participants about the benefits of the SMART Plan via weekly messaging throughout National Retirement Security Month (NRSM). Our Virtual Road Trip campaign informed participants of the journey of saving for retirement, focused on closing the retirement income gap, increasing contributions, and personalizing the retirement experience with local plan advisor virtual meetings. Our month-long campaign saw demonstrated participant engagement, with open and click rates exceeding industry averages, as well as increased actionable items by participants to improve retirement outcomes. Overall, the campaign yielded 472 one-on-one meetings with Retirement Plan Advisors, 1,148 participants increasing deferral, and over 9.6% of all participants updating and reviewing their beneficiaries.

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MTA Financial Wellness Challenge 2020

As a global pandemic set in, MTA essential workers experienced a drastic change in the way they worked and lived. Additionally, COVID-19 caused many to think about their expectations and to reflect on their Financial Future. Using the Fall’s National Retirement Security Month (NRSM) as a platform to educate, enroll and engage employees, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), partnering with Prudential Retirement, developed and rolled out a creatively themed virtual “Financial Wellness Challenge 2020”. Since NRSM is a dedicated time to focus on improving employee retirement outcomes, this was an ideal platform for the employees at North America’s largest transportation network, that carried a population of 15.3 million people across a 5,000-square-mile travel area surrounding New York City through Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut.

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North Carolina Enrollment Campaign

The N.C. Department of State Treasurer (DST) recognizes that enrollment in their supplemental retirement plans matters when it comes to retirement readiness. Our statistics show that:

  • 71.79% of all active employees who participate in the plans are on track to be “retirement ready.”
    VERSUS
  • 44.05% of those who were not enrolled in the plans are on track to be “retirement ready.”

The goal was simple: to encourage those employees to enroll despite the fact that our workforce was showing economic signs of distress, largely due to the pandemic. The engagement and action resulting from this campaign was so successful, we proudly submit it for your consideration in the 2021 NAGDA Award “National Retirement Security Month” category.

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Participant Education & Communication

403(b) and 457 Plans: Enrollment Campaign and Plan Enhancements

Anchorage School District (ASD) offers both a 403(b) and 457(b) plan to its employees. Despite taking several steps over the years to increase plan access and availability, both plans continued to have lower than average participation rates, more notably the 457(b) plan. Heading into 2020, ASD renewed its focus on increasing participation in both plans. To help reach this goal, it implemented a detailed strategy for the year that included four key tactics:

  1. Introducing online enrollment to make it easier to start participating;
  2. Beginning a formalized program to introduce and promote the plans during the new hire onboarding process, featuring both ASD benefits staff and Plan Advisors from industry partner Empower Retirement
  3. Using National Retirement Security Month to continue the momentum towards the end of the year to promote the benefits of the plans to existing employees; and
  4. Updating the provisions of the 457(b) plan to mirror the eligibility and loan provisions of the 403(b) and allow all employees to enroll in either or both of the plans.

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Ready, Set, Communicate!

In March 2020, the County responded to pandemic-imposed constraints adopting a Ready, Set, Communicate! approach to communication and education. This meant pivoting to a virtual engagement model with the goals of protecting the health and safety of participants and Plan representatives, increasing the frequency and scope of communications, communicating in a more efficient and targeted way and helping participants improve retirement outcomes.

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Summer Enrollment Campaign

Knowing State of Texas employees will only have about 50% of their pre-retirement income from their ERS retirement (defined benefit plan), Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) wanted to educate and inform eligible state employees and current participants about the benefits of the Texa$averSM 401(k) / 457 Program during their summer enrollment period. To achieve this goal, they required a format for delivering critical messages in a way that was accessible, entertaining and easy to understand – all while social distancing.

To meet these criteria, ERS partnered with Empower Retirement to create the Your Blockbuster Retirement campaign which utilized multifaceted, targeted and plan-wide campaign tactics created to support the idea that saving for retirement doesn’t have to be intimidating. Planning and saving for retirement could be something as simple and enjoyable, like going to a drive-in movie (while social distancing)! The campaign shared with the targeted audience that with a good retirement “script” and “supporting cast,” participants could be the star of their own retirement picture! This cohesive eligible state employee and participant outreach initiative was launched during ERS’s summer enrollment period (June 18 – August 31, 2020) and encouraged employees to maximize the use of investment resources available for retirement savings.

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Automatic Increase Holiday Savings Campaign

The State of Missouri Deferred Compensation Plan and the plan’s recordkeeper, MissionSquare Retirement (formerly ICMA-RC), created a holiday-themed savings campaign targeting state participants in the 457(b) plan. While the primary goal of the campaign was to increase savings within the MO Deferred Comp Plan through use and awareness of the automatic increase tool, the campaign also helped drive online engagement and self-service account management.
Communications educated participants on the benefits of auto-increases, including the potential boost to account balances over time. As a result, 1.4% of targeted 457 participants chose to use the auto-increase tool and improved their retirement outlook, .6% of participants returned the postcard tear-off mailers, and 2.4% of participants logged in to their online account and selected to save with the automatic increase tool.

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COVID-19 2020 Education & Communications

This initiative showcased how Prudential and NYC Health + Hospitals were able to come together to work with the 40,000 healthcare workers personally affected by this pandemic to ease their concerns of the volatile market and their retirement plans. This included educating participants regarding retirement readiness and promoting better financial wellness during the unprecedented times of COVID-19. Some of the positive outcomes of this partnership included: virtual meetings, an online appointment scheduling feature called Time Trade, Docu-sign capabilities, utilizing the custom website as a resource, thank-you videos to the Healthcare workers and the promotion of National Nurses Week.

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Plan Design & Administration

Supporting Retirement Savings – Participation, Contributions, and the Investment Menu

As pension benefits in the State of Illinois have evolved over the last decade, the role of the State of Illinois Deferred Compensation Plan (“”the Plan””) in supporting beneficiaries’ retirement readiness will be of increased importance. The Illinois State Board of Investment (ISBI), fiduciary for the Plan, in partnership with other key stakeholders, including the Plan administrator, recordkeeper, and consultant implemented several enhancements in 2020 to help participants achieve their retirement readiness goals, including moving enrollment and salary deferral changes from a paper-based process to online, allowing participants to contribute to the Plan as a percentage of salary, beginning auto-enrollment for new employees, streamlining the capital preservation options in the investment line-up, and implementing white label names for the investment options. Successful on their own and in tandem, these initiatives increased plan participation to over 90% among auto-enrollees, simplified administrative processes, allowed for more robust reporting on Plan health metrics, and helped enhance the robust building blocks for asset allocations – together supporting participants in meeting their retirement savings and investment goals.

Investing in our Investors: KDC’s 2021 Investment Redesign

KDC had much pent up demand in the category of change for 2020. In the face of the pandemic, KDC took the opportunity of the shutdown to conduct a comprehensive review of the entirety of the program to determine what services were offered to participants, how that actually manifested in participant outcomes, and how best to improve those results; nothing was sacred and KDC was prepared to consider any idea in furtherance of increasing the benefit.

Heretofore, KDC had a set number of enrollments, increases, and other arbitrary marketing goals each year; these goals were not comprehensive. Results were arguably reaching a goodly population, but the effective rate simply wasn’t there in either participation or outcome. With the implementation and expansion of Auto-enroll, KDC quickly realized there was much to be gained with a different focus. KDC’s realigned goal was changed to that of effectuating a financial benefit to ALL eligible and active participants; effectively, for the first time, KDC set out to improve EACH participant’s financial wellness by ultimately providing an active financial plan. Financial planning was approved by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the last legislative session; KDC is currently developing this program from an existing pilot with partners. For the purposes of this submission, we wanted to focus on how KDC set about meeting these goals by changing their plan design and administrative practices. Our primary goals were to:

  1. Simplify the investment lineup to meet ALL participants’ needs;
  2. Reduce participant fees;
  3. Improve all participants’ Financial Wellness.

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Investment Lineup Enhancements

After the investment lineup enhancement, participants transferred only 0.06% of assets into the lineup’s fixed income category. This was proof participants were calm and resilient despite significant economic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact on the Plans resulted in plan growth by more than 12% (most Plans grew by less than 10%) that ended the year at $1.379 billion in total assets which is a gain of $172 million. Overall, the DCC’s strategic enhancements and communications benefitted participants greatly from the strong equity markets in the latter part of the year. The County DCC is very pleased by the results of the 2020 investment lineup enhancement. The positive impact on participant behaviors through the April 2020 investment transition against a backdrop of unprecedented market volatility demonstrates how the County’s Plans continue to achieve better retirement outcomes for employees.

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Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program Defined Benefit Estimate Pilot

The Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program (WDC) wanted to measure participant interest in having their Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) defined benefit estimate included on the Plan’s website and in participants’ personalized Lifetime Income Score.

The Lifetime Income Score (LIS), powered by the WDC’s recordkeeper Empower Retirement, estimates the percentage of working income that a participant is on track to replace in retirement. The LIS percentage is generated by utilizing a participant’s individual deferred compensation savings, Social Security data, and any other outside sources of retirement income, such as a defined benefit estimate.

WDC partnered with Empower Retirement to offer a pilot group of 605 participants at 7 different employers a special limited-time option to view their defined benefit estimate in their LIS. The expected outcome was that the pilot group of participants would engage more with their account data on website and their LIS. The pilot program consisted of several communications touchpoints throughout the limited-time offer, which ran from April 15-June 30, 2020.

During the pilot, which ran from April 15-June 30, 47% of those targeted went online and reviewed their LIS with their WRS defined benefit estimate included. Average web session duration for these participants lasted about 8 minutes, 39 seconds, which is about a minute and 32 seconds longer than the WDC average session duration of 7 minutes and 7 seconds. 12% of the participants who went online decided to add in other outside assets and income, like rental income, to fill out their retirement income picture. 4.5% of the participants who went online increased their contribution after reviewing their LIS with their defined benefit estimate, and 6% updated their beneficiaries during their web session.

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Redesigning the Core Defined Contribution Plan

With their members’ retirement security in mind, the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) set out to revamp their core defined contribution retirement plan. The goal of the redesign was to better meet the needs of SURS members and improve the plan offerings for both the accumulation and decumulation of members’ retirement assets. The changes include renaming the plan from Self-Managed Plan to the Retirement Savings Plan to better reflect the features of the enhanced plan, a recordkeeper consolidation to improve operations and lower fees, a new flexible default investment option that allows members to remain in the plan and does not require self-managing, a plan re-enrollment into the new default option to improve outcomes, an enhanced investment lineup that reduces fund overlap while providing access to more functional asset classes, and improved communications to enhance the overall member experience.

The new default investment option, the SURS Lifetime Income Strategy was designed to help members meet basic income needs in retirement. It is a flexible, target date fund portfolio with the option to secure retirement income that members cannot outlive. As an all-in-one diversified solution, it offers members a place to save and grow their money (even in retirement) and an opportunity to generate guaranteed retirement income for life (even in down markets).

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Technology & Interactive Multimedia

Virtual Financial Expo

Each year we host an in-person Financial expo, conducting many Rep 1:1’s, answering questions, and hands-on learning at technology stations. Many employees, including Public Safety and retirees, look forward to this annual event. In response to the pandemic and social distancing requirements, we needed to find an alternative approach for the annual event to continue engagement and education with employees they have come to expect. Therefore, we created an innovative way to host our financial expo “virtually” We developed and hosted a 6-hour live Virtual Financial Expo with engaging activities. We had so many resources available for employees to meet with virtually, created some fun educational competition, had music, animation and created a convenient environment to focus on saving for retirement right at their fingertips without traveling. We spent several months preparing, planning, and promoting for the big event, which was a success!

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Social Distancing – But Not Alone

This isn’t a story about technology. It’s a story of how a group of people rallied together when technology was all that was left of what used to be. Through technology, MSRP engaged members on a more personal level resulting in higher average annual contributions: enrollment $4,264 (45% increase over previous year) and increases $1,742 (40% increase over previous year). With our online events and virtual consultations, our members were socially distant – but not alone. Six key components included Benefit Coordinator Academies, Website Covid Hub, Online Appointment Scheduling, Webinar Series, Virtual Savings Symposium event, and our 3D Virtual Benefit Fair event. We had great engagement and success with each of these components. Retirement Specialists engaged with 30% less employees than before the pandemic but spent an average of 20 minutes more per person. The resulting interactions were more in-depth and meaningful, prompting members to save even more per person than they have in the past.

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Informational Videos-Enrollment Series

The State of Florida Bureau of Deferred Compensation released a four-part series of informational videos designed to walk employees through a very basic understanding of the Plan. These videos, known as the enrollment series, cover basic enrollment and participation related topics such as: What is the Deferred Compensation Plan, How to Enroll, Investment Options, and Accessing Your Money. Each of the enrollment series videos was developed to provide relevant content in bite sized, on demand portions. The informational videos can be found here: https://www.myfloridacfo.com/deferredcomp/home/informational-videos.

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Enrollment Webpage Enhanced Experience

The N.C. Department of State Treasurer (DST) administers three supplemental retirement plans – the NC 401(k) and NC 457 Plans and the NC 403(b) Program. There is a collaborative relationship between how these plans are administered at the state level and how they are executed at the local level by individual employers. This model permits employers to determine which of the supplemental plans are included within their retirement plan offering(s).

The widespread variability in plan options presented an opportunity to develop a web platform that could accommodate more than 1,000 unique employer retirement plan offerings, thus providing a digital solution for more than 200,000 eligible participants. Previously, the plans’ custom website contained information that was, out of necessity, very generic and not customized to employers’ plan-related information. To enhance the participant experience, we leveraged technology to create a multimedia (including animations), interactive approach, enabling us to customize the website’s Plan Information/Enrollment webpage to reflect each employer’s plan offering(s) based on participant inputs.

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VRS Interactive Virtual Tools

As COVID-19 spread across the globe, out of an abundance of caution, all VRS offices, including the VRS Service Center, were closed to in-person and walk-in appointments. VRS shifted to fully online virtual education and support, leaning on technology to ease the virtual transition for VRS members, employers and retirees.

VRS partnered with MissionSquare Retirement (formerly ICMA-RC), the third-party record keeper for its defined contribution plans (DCPs), to provide participants with a more interactive and engaging virtual experience during 2020, helping to support needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

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