2022 NAGDCA Leadership Award Recipients

Congratulations to the 2022 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 2022 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!

COVID-19 Response

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. The Member Service Centers had to close to the public due to the pandemic and only recently have reopened for limited in-person services. To continue to offer retirement planning information and education, primarily 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 – new educator, early career, mid career and nearing retirement. 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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Participation Education & Communication

The City and County of Honolulu is a 457(b) deferred compensation plan was established July 1, 1979 and is available to eligible employees of the City and County of Honolulu. The Deferred Compensation Committee, which consists of seven committee members, manages the plan which has assets exceeding $950 million and serves more than 9,500 participants.

While many employers scaled back operations at the onset of the pandemic and struggled to define a “new normal,” the City and County of Honolulu recognized that this could be detrimental to the retirement progress employees had made to date. The City and County of Honolulu decided to further increase participation and the retirement readiness of their participants while also increasing the digital engagement of plan participants by increasing the frequency and scope of communications, communicating in a more efficient and targeted way and helping participants improve retirement outcomes.

The Plan, along with its recordkeeper, Voya Financial®, partnered together to implement a detailed strategy for the year with the overarching goal of increasing plan engagement and overall participation. The strategy included five key tactics:

  • Encourage active participants to access their account online and go paperless for delivery of documents with e-Delivery to increase digital engagement;
  • Encourage active employees, to review their existing Plan account beneficiary or to designate one for the first time;
  • Motivate individuals to understand the importance of increasing their deferral amounts to maximize their savings;
  • Increase participation and enrollment through the Benefits Processing sessions; and
  • Promote online account registration and regular account access.

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2021 Healthy Rewards Program

Like many employers, the City of Milwaukee recognizes that financial wellness matters in the work environment and serves as a significant opportunity to engage with participants. To help address this need, beginning in 2018, the City of Milwaukee made meeting with a local Voya onsite representative part of our Healthy Rewards Program. Healthy Rewards is the City’s incentive-based wellness program where participants can earn three levels of points to earn funds for a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), up to $700. Due to the in-person visitation restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Voya team and Deferred Compensation Plan staff worked to adjust our approach to enable virtual one-on-one financial consultations via conference calls and Zoom sessions. We also created new online recorded Financial Wellness seminars, with registration and quiz questions to demonstrate that employees successfully completed the seminar session. By offering five Healthy Rewards Points per each successfully completed online Financial Wellness seminar (up to a max of 65 points per person), we have encouraged City employees (and their spouses) to explore a variety of financial topics.

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Coronavirus-Related Distribution (CRD) Communications

This project was implemented to educate plan participants about the importance of continuing to save for retirement in the NYC Health + Hospitals Tax-Deferred Arrangement (TDA), a voluntary 403(b) plan that supplements the pension plan. The campaign was targeted to individuals who took negative action in their TDA account related to the coronavirus crisis.

Our communications emphasized the benefits of repaying back a Coronavirus-Related Distribution (CRD). Results were very positive – with over 50% of the targeted group meeting virtually with a dedicated TDA counselor and 26% increasing their contribution rate or restarting their contributions. Additionally, the average increase among this audience was a little over 7.5%.

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SmartStep Auto-Increase Awareness Campaign

The COVID-19 pandemic remains a crisis 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. Most VRS staff are working remotely and continue to provide virtual education and support to its members, employers, and retirees during the coronavirus pandemic.

VRS partnered with MissionSquare Retirement, the third-party record keeper for its defined contribution plans (DCPs), to boost awareness and use of the VRS Commonwealth of Virginia 457 Deferred Compensation Plan’s (COV 457) SmartStep automatic-increase feature while driving engagement with the participant website — Account Access.

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National Retirement Security Month

Financial Wellness Olympics Challenge

The City of Anaheim sought to improve financial wellness for its employees during National Retirement Security Month in October 2021. Employee needs were identified, and together with MissionSquare, an exciting financial wellness educational campaign was designed to provide informational webinars and literature as a means to incentivize and motivate employees to think about long-term plans after employment. The pandemic created many challenges and required employees to pay closer attention to their financial security. The City and MissionSquare found it prudent to incorporate a financial wellness component to mental wellness as City employees continued to experience the impacts of the pandemic.

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NRSM 2021 – Back to the Movies with the DCP

On September 27, 2021, DCP staff, in partnership with its Third-Party Administrator (TPA), Voya, launched their annual campaign for National Retirement Security Month (NRSM). The primary objectives of the campaign were to encourage participation, increase participant contributions, support asset retention of its retired participants, and promote greater awareness of the services and features offered by the DCP. The City’s NRSM campaign was themed “Back to the Movies with the DCP,” highlighting the City of Los Angeles’ iconic reputation of being the home of movies.

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457(b) Horizons and 401(k) Savings Plans—Making National Retirement Security Month an Event with Lasting Impact

For Plan Sponsors, National Retirement Security Month (NRSM) is an annual opportunity to shine a spotlight on the issue of retirement readiness and encourage participants to take positive steps toward a brighter financial future. In 2021, the Plan Administrative Committee (PAC) for the County of Los Angeles 457(b) Horizons and 401(k) Savings Plans developed an email campaign with NRSM 2021 as its focal point. The goal was to make a meaningful difference in the lives of thousands of participants—and prompt them to take positive action in improving their financial health. The campaign encouraged participants to attend webinars, schedule Comprehensive Account Reviews with local representatives and take steps such as reviewing their investment mix and beneficiary designation.

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It’s your future, retire well

The “It’s your future, retire well” campaign was conducted during October, 2021, in support of National Retirement Security Month (NRSM). All active participants in the State of Michigan 401(k) and 457 Plans (the Plans) were targeted. The campaign provided retirement education and training and offered an opportunity to register a live webinar and one-on-one account reviews. Although these reviews are offered year-round, many participants associate them with NRSM and appreciate a reminder in October.

The campaign was comprised of three short emails, a landing page populated with retirement education content, and a virtual scavenger hunt. Additionally, participants could view the presentation “Navigating your online account” in live or on-demand webinar format.

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NDC Nevada Saves Month

The Nevada Public Employees’ Deferred Compensation (NDC) Program is a voluntary retirement savings plan designed to increase personal savings for retirement. To help improve the financial literacy and success of all NDC-eligible employees and support the development of educational resources in financial literacy through the State of Nevada’s Financial Literacy Advisory Council, the NDC Program developed its own financial wellness campaign during National Retirement Security Month. The campaign, Nevada Saves Month, helped to raise awareness of holistic financial wellness, provide resources to address financial literacy issues, and build a secure financial future by participating in the NDC Program on the journey to and through retirement.

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Participant Education & Communication

Recipe for your Retirement Readiness Campaign

Participants picked a recipe for success by choosing Savings Plus. But, a successful retirement also hinges on choosing the right ingredients and techniques to reach the best outcome. By using authentic and approachable images of people in the kitchen during different stages of life, the campaign focused on the resources that the Program provides and the actions a participant can take to make the recipe successful.

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2021 Summer Passport Program

The District of Columbia 2021 Summer Passport Program was an extended campaign where participants embarked on a six-week virtual journey that included online events such as webinars, on-demand videos, and other financial wellness calls to action. Participants earned “stamps” through various events and gained a chance to win a prize for regular participation. The program featured:

  • Custom introduction and promotional videos
  • Weekly campaign emails encouraging participation in the program and advising of the weekly calls to action
  • A banner on the DCRetire.com website
  • An event-specific microsite — DC Summer Passport for easy access to relevant events and tracking of employee participation
  • More than 15 videos on financial wellness topics such as debt management, college savings, estate planning, and retirement planning
  • Special online events, including webinars with local and national financial and investment experts where participants could learn about successful strategies for their finances and investing for their future
  • Prize incentives for participation in various activities

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Your Retirement Adventure

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. ERS partnered with Empower to create the Your Retirement Adventure 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 simple and enjoyable, with steps you can take right from your own backyard!

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How Much? How Long? Increase Campaigns

Plan members need specific information at key points during their career. Timing is a critical component of financial planning and knowing the “when’s” and “how much” should be more specific than “whatever you can, all the time.” Sometimes, one-size-fits-all messaging for increasing contributions is overly generalized. Our strategy was to find ways to get relevant messaging to members during their windows of opportunity to increase their contributions. We created several themed increase contribution campaigns, including a Tortoise and Hare Re-match video, with numerous tactics to target specific audiences at the right time: eligible employees, young savers, mid-career members, and late career members. We seen great success including: $20,094,428 total increases in 2021, which was an 81% increase ($12,362,827) in the 1st half of 2021 and 15% increase ($7,761,601) in 2nd half of 2021. We conducted 195 webinars in 2021 with 13,436 in attendance (a 100% increase compared to pre-Covid-19).

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SmartStep Auto-Increase Awareness Campaign

The COVID-19 pandemic remains a crisis 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. Most VRS staff are working remotely and continue to provide virtual education and support to its members, employers, and retirees during the coronavirus pandemic.

VRS partnered with MissionSquare Retirement, the third-party record keeper for its defined contribution plans (DCPs), to boost awareness and use of the VRS Commonwealth of Virginia 457 Deferred Compensation Plan’s (COV 457) SmartStep automatic-increase feature while driving engagement with the participant website — Account Access.

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Plan Design & Administration

Income Replacement Study: Using accurate individual-level participant income replacement projections to optimize plan design

Without an accurate picture of employee retirement readiness, identifying optimal plan design remains an educated guess. In order to enhance their 457(b) and 401(a) plans’ investment offerings and participant services – and ultimately improve employees’ financial health and retirement readiness – Alameda County, CA set out to conduct a detailed study quantifying the income replacement ratio of its active employees.

Using data from County pension projections, Social Security estimates, and current 457(b) and 401(a) account balances and contributions, the County was able to gain a clearer picture of their employees’ benefits needs.

The income replacement study’s findings allowed Alameda County to build a custom “do-it-for-me” solution optimized for employees’ actual circumstances, versus industry-standard assumptions.

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Supplemental Plans Redesign

Chicago Public Schools (“CPS”) is the third-largest school district in the United States, operating approximately 636 schools with more than 40,000 active employees. Like many other K-12 school districts, CPS’ 403(b) and 457(b) plans had historically operated in a multi-vendor environment, although CPS has successfully reduced the number of active vendors over the years. However, the reductions were not an easy task. In 2020, CPS began working on a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) process to explore consolidating to a single provider for recordkeeping and third-party administration services for the Plans. CPS was determined to help participants achieve retirement readiness and financial wellness; provide non-conflicted retirement education; streamline administrative processes; and, ensure transparent and best-value pricing for both investment management fees and recordkeeping and administration fees. At the end of the process, CPS selected a single provider for all future contributions; adopted a new service model designed to provide more effective education; implemented a new investment lineup based on best practices; streamlined administration activities; and, lowered fees. CPS then successfully implemented the new platform while also adopting a new Roth contribution feature. There are many K-12 school districts, as well as some other government entities, still operating in a multi-vendor environment, and CPS’ recordkeeping consolidation project provides a blueprint that other similarly situated plan sponsors can follow.

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Voluntary Deferred Compensation Plans Investment Lineup Enhancement & Recordkeeper Renegotiation

Despite the challenges, market volatility, and limiting conditions presented in 2021, the City of Seattle Trust Committee was resolute to improve their 457 Deferred Compensation plan by establishing key initiatives, thoroughly evaluating options, and implementing changes to improve the participants standing. As a result of the Committee’s actions, participants will save approximately $1.14mm in gross costs annually across the plan. Participants will also benefit from a more streamlined and customized investment line-up. Additionally, the City continued to ensure strong governance is a cornerstone of the Committee by preparing and equipping new Committee members with fiduciary training sessions.

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Automatic Retirement Readiness

Part of Gwinnett’s comprehensive compensation program includes our retirement contribution offerings and supplemental employer match. To assist employees in saving for their retirement, and to encourage proactive planning for their future, we implemented an automatic contribution increase program in 2021. This program was well-received by employees as it has removed some of the burden of financial planning while automating what would be a fiscally-sound investment approach to our employee’s benefit. This proactive financial approach is a key aspect of how we, as an organization, serve to exemplify the ‘Gwinnett Standard’ for our employees.

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Defined Contribution Plans Recordkeeper Request for Proposal (RFP) Results

For many Plans, the recordkeeper RFP process can have the greatest impact on participant retirement outcomes. The Committee was very aware of the importance of the RFP process. An RFP Evaluation Subcommittee (“Subcommittee”) was formed, consisting of existing Committee members. This Subcommittee knew of the challenge to further improve the Plans, especially during a persistent pandemic. They were up to the task.

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Technology, Interactive Multimedia & Cybersecurity

Investing Learn to Earn Virtual Event

With the County of San Diego Deferred Compensation Program’s Investing Learn to Earn virtual event that ran from October 2021 – January 31, 2022, visitors entered a videogame-style environment to explore and play their way to better financial wellness. The full plan website, myDCplan.com lies beneath the videogame “skin” providing full functionality for real-world action. Almost 22% of all visitors with online accounts increased their contributions. Of those visitors who were not enrolled, 28% enrolled. On an annualized basis, Learn to Earn increases and enrollments will generate more than $1 million of additional contributions flowing into the Program. Learn to Earn was also effective at driving program and retirement readiness awareness. Nearly 300 (20%) of Learn to Earn users engaged with My Interactive Retirement Planner to model retirement income scenarios after participating in the event. This is more than double the 9% rate of non-Learn to Earn participants utilizing My Interactive Retirement Planner during this same timeframe. Learn to Earn users were nearly five times more likely to use the My Investment Planner tool to get free investment allocation advice.

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Plan.Save.Retire

The Florida Deferred Compensation Plan initiated a three month communication program to highlight a new section of its website entitled Plan.Save.Retire. These web resources were in response to COVID changes to the open enrollment process for the State and and effort to provide comprehensive retirement information to employees. This information include videos, links, fliers, and other resources base on the three general phases of employment: Planning – new hire and younger employees just starting out with a need to learn about retirement generally; Saving – mid career employees that might seek additional investment options for increased savings and diversification; Retiring – employees nearing retirement and seeking information about required minimum distribution and specialty retirement options.

The Plan send 510,000 emails and 130,000 post cards directly to Participants to advertise these resources, as well as provided direct links on the main page of the Plan website.

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