2020 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 2020 award recipients and details about their projects can be found below.

Participant Education & Communication

2019 Sheriffs Retention Campaign

The average monthly participant rollout from the County Deferred Compensation Program in 2018 and 2019 was $3.5 million, or close to $41 million per year. Included in this figure are County of San Diego deputy sheriffs and sheriffs’ management personnel with an account balance over a set threshold. On average, public safety personnel earn higher salaries and retire at an earlier age than their non-safety peers. The County analyzed its rollover activity and found its data supported the theory that public safety personnel were likely receiving attention from outside brokerage firms. Between 2014-2019, 15% of all separated deputy sheriff and sheriffs’ management roll their assets out of the plan, with 71% of those rollovers occurring within the first six months after separation from active employment. Only 39% of non-sheriff safety and 48% of non-safety rollovers occur during those same time frames. The County and Nationwide identified the deputy sheriff and sheriffs’ management audience as a population likely to roll out their assets (particularly within six months of separation) and most likely to be negatively impacted from a liquidity/tax planning standpoint, and developed a retention campaign specific to that audience. Results: a 92% reduction in both the number and amount of rollovers out was generated by the targeted campaign.

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Level Up Your Retirement 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$aver 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.

To meet these criteria, ERS partnered with Empower Retirement to create the Level Up Your 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 because it’s as simple as “leveling up” through the “stages” of saving on the Texa$aver program website. This cohesive eligible state employee and participant outreach initiative was launched during ERS’s summer enrollment period (June 24 – July 26, 2019) and encouraged employees to maximize the use of investment resources available for retirement savings.

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Save More, Do More Campaign

In 2019, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) 401(k) and 457(b) Plans launched a multi-channel campaign designed to ensure that the message about the importance of savings rates came through loud and clear. The resulting Save More, Do More campaign highlighted the benefits of saving through an employer-sponsored retirement plan, including tax-advantaged contributions, the potential of compounded growth and automatic saving with each paycheck.

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Participant Education & Communication Campaign

Beginning in January 2019, the PERS/OSGP marketing strategy focused on one overarching campaign that included financial awareness and retirement education, specifically for participants earlier in their careers. The campaign culminated with a flagship event in October 2019: the PERS Expo. An ad campaign on LinkedIn, educational videos, and redesigned OSGP website, workshop presentations and new collateral, were utilized in the campaign. Each part of the campaign had a consistent look, message, and call to action. The message throughout built on the foundation that “there is no time like the present to take an active interest in your financial future.”

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Island $avings Plan’s Action-based Educational Program 

How do you capture participants’ attention and make the communication meaningful to help them understand the importance of building retirement security? The Island $avings Plan determined that, to ensure employees truly know they can obtain that sense of security in retirement, it must utilize an action-based educational program that would be simple and relatable. In designing the educational program, the Plan rejected a “one-size fits all” approach and chose instead to tailor communications and activities to best suit employees of certain age groups or distinct characteristics to take positive actions for their retirement and overall financial wellness.

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Plan Design & Administration

SMART Plan Active Choice Enrollment Form with Auto-Increase Option

The Massachusetts 457 Deferred Compensation SMART Plan, in collaboration with the Massachusetts State Retirement Board, sought to increase participation and streamline enrollment through its SMART Plan Active Choice Enrollment Form. Building on the success of the original Active Choice Form, beginning in March 2019, the SMART Plan adopted a new option for enrollment in the SMART Plan – incorporating an automatic increase feature. The new Active Choice Form presented new employees with three “active choice” options to begin retirement saving: a default pre-tax salary deferral of three percent with an annual automatic increase of one percent to a maximum six percent (“auto-increase”); a write-in pre-tax salary deferral percentage; or a decline of participation. Participants electing to begin contributions were then automatically enrolled in a SMARTPath Target Date Fund based on their date of birth. From March 2019 through end of 2019, over 74% of new employees using the Form elected the default deferral with auto-increase for a total of 771 enrollments with auto-increase.

Automatic Enrollment Plan Design Enhancement

In July 2019, the County of San Bernardino (the County) rolled out a pivotal automatic enrollment 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan enhancement for current employees and new hires in eligible bargaining units at a 1% contribution rate. Since California law prohibits governmental employers from unilaterally implementing automatic enrollment, the County began collectively bargaining an automatic enrollment feature for our voluntary 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan into various Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s). When bargaining units signed an MOU, the new auto enrollment feature becomes effective 90 days after the MOU effective date.

The automatic enrollment implementation and promotional materials drove outstanding results including 5,420 new 457(b) plan enrollments and an uptick of the participation rate reaching 80%, a 24.6% increase. Outreach continues for auto enrollment with additional unions to help participants achieve better retirement outcomes.

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Importance of Employer Contributions

One of the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer’s (NC DST) primary missions is to help its public servants become “retirement ready.” For employers, offering our valuable, but optional, supplemental retirement plans is a solid step in the right direction.

Taking it to the next level involves voluntarily offering some form of employer contribution. Our experience and research have made it clear that when NC local employers offer a contribution, their plan participation rate is nearly twice the average participation rate of employers without a contribution, 75 percent versus 38 percent. In 2019, this mission was accomplished despite a challenging environment where new pension contributions increased due to legislation.

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Technology & Social Media

A Targeted Solution Encouraging Enrollment and Saving

The City of Austin Deferred Compensation Plan Committee understands that for employees to reach their retirement income goals, it must start with enrolling in the deferred compensation plan. To capture the attention of all eligible employees and encourage enrollment in the Plan, the City extended its outreach using an unconventional method. In cooperation with Empower Retirement, the City and its vendor built a deferred compensation plan tab leveraging existing technology and harnessing the power of its benefits portal during open enrollment.

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Expanding Wellness Incentive Program by Incorporating Financial Wellness

Johnson County’s “Your Wellness Matters” Program lowers the health care costs for County employees and spouses enrolled in the medical plan. Realizing the importance of the overall well-being of plan participants, the County elected to incorporate a Financial Wellness Experience into the program for the 2019 plan year. The County added a Financial Wellness Assessment as an activity option to count towards earning a Wellness Incentive which offsets the medical plan contribution by $840 per year. To add the Financial Wellness Experience to the program, the County partnered with Voya Financial to provide employee access to the Assessment and promote the valued resource throughout the plan year.

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Enhancing Participant Outreach Using Web 1-on-1s and Webinars

The State of Missouri Deferred Compensation Plan (or the MO Deferred Comp Plan) relies heavily on its six field staff (education specialists) to communicate with employees by providing education on retirement saving and investing and disseminating marketing campaigns. To help support the education specialists, cut down on travel costs, engage more participants, make meeting with a plan representative as convenient as possible, and stay up to date with advancements in technology, the plan expanded its participant outreach by adding video consultations, known as Web 1-on-1s, in July 2019. Later in 2019, the plan also began offering webinars to eligible, active, and retired state employees. The new additions to MO Deferred Comp’s already long list of communication and education methods, has proven to be a successful endeavor and worthy investment. Thanks to video conferencing, the plan has seen an increase in presentation and Web 1-on-1 attendance, reached a new segment of individuals who would normally not attend in-person offerings, decreased plan costs, and enhanced participant education.

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Go Green Campaign

The Island $avings Plan and State of Vermont Retirement Plan, two “green-minded” states, joined forces for a friendly challenge to find out which state has the “greener” retirement plan that encouraged participants to live greener and register their Plan’s account online and sign up for e-delivery to receive transactional confirmations, account statements via email notifications.

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National Retirement Security Week

The Best Plans are with your Friends

What good is the best plan without your best friends? The City of Los Angeles’ (City) 2019 National Retirement Security Week campaign was entitled, “The Best Plans are with your Friends”, as the City has observed that the most effective way to influence employee behavior is through a trusted messenger. The City’s Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP) developed and published an interactive exercise that consisted of five simple actionable activities for each of its three distinct audiences (active participants, retired participants, and non-participating eligible employees). In the City’s DCP, peers and colleagues appear to be one of the most influential sources of engaging with the Plan and retirement readiness.

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