Public Retirement Research Lab (PRRL)Carly Miller2021-08-11T09:20:16-04:00
Introducing the Public Retirement Research Lab
In 2020, NAGDCA and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) launched the Public Retirement Research Lab (PRRL). This collaborative project created a first-of-its-kind database for public sector defined contribution retirement plan information, which is used as a primary source of information for cutting-edge retirement research.
Click below to: access information to share with your Board or Committee to help communicate the concept of the PRRL, complete the authorization form to participate, view an introductory webinar, and access the data and research library.
NAGDCA is partnering with the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) to build a public sector defined contribution database and research center. The database will only contain investment and demographic data from 457(b), 401(a), 403(b), and government 401(k) plans. No private sector data will be included. The database will serve as the primary data resource for the public sector retirement industry, and the PRRL will generate industry-level research.
As a participant you receive the benefits listed in the “Plan Sponsor Benefits” section above. You will also have access to a wealth of information and research to improve your plan’s performance. Finally, you will contribute to helping NAGDCA advocate for your interests at the federal level.
EBRI — a nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization — was created in 1978 for the purpose of contributing to sound employee benefit programs and public policy through independent, objective, fact-based research and education. To learn more about them, please click here.
For decades, EBRI has successfully maintained a secure database containing over half of all national 401(k) data. The industry has used this data to conduct research to create better outcomes for private sector participants. NAGDCA is partnering with EBRI to leverage this experience, and create a primary data resource for public sector plans.
We have two goals with this project. The first is to provide our members with the highest quality benchmarking data and research available so you can make informed decisions to improve your plan. The second is to reduce the workload from plan sponsors and their staff during this process.
NAGDCA will send communications in early January asking you to authorize your recordkeeper to provide your plan’s data directly to the database. For an expanded description, please see the “How it Works” section above.
Your data security is our top priority. Your plan’s data will be completely encrypted by your record keeper before it is sent to the database. This will ensure total security for your plan.
For the transfer itself, only encrypted data will be sent to the database, andno personally identifiable information will be sent. This includes social security numbers, employee ID numbers, names, birthdates, job titles, address, location, or any other piece of information that can be used to identify any individual.
The following is a detailed description of the data transfer process:
Phase 1: at Third Party provider
Generate encryption key
Distribute encryption key to data provider
Third Party generates encryption key on secure, dedicated system
The key is sent from Third Party to the data provider via secure method using an encrypted file
At no point, does Third Party receive any data
The encryption key never goes to EBRI or NAGDCA
Phase 2: at Data Provider
Implements hash algorithm – extracts data files
Transfers data file to database
Decrypts package from Third Party to extract encryption key
Implements masking protocol: runs real ssn value through HMAC-SHA256 algorithm and encryption key, resulting in 64 character hash value
Combines 64 character hash value with data files
Real ssn value, along with any personally identifiable data is deleted from data files before it is sent to the PRRL
The encryption key never goes to EBRI or NAGDCA – Third Party available for implementation support
The data files are transferred from data provider to PRRL via secure method. FTP transfer of encrypted file is preferred method
Phase 3: at PRRL
Manipulates final data files
Produces analytic deliverables
Decrypts package from data provider to extract data files containing standard 64 character hashed id
Re-encrypts hashed value with an EBRI proprietary key
Manipulate data and process analytical results on segregated & secure system
At no point, does PRRL receive encryption key used by providers
While participant-level data will not be directly accessible for security purposes, plan-level data will still be available to participating plans through the NAGDCA secure data portal. Furthermore, participant-level insights will be available to participating plans through reports and analysis as described in the “Plan Sponsor Benefits” section above.
Unlike our benchmarking survey, both participant-level and plan-level data will be collected in this database. To understand why this is a significant improvement from our previous benchmarking efforts, please see the table above.
The following is a preliminary list of variables the PRRL will seek (subject to availability):
Participant Level Data:
Most Recent Demographic Information
tenure (if available)
salary (if available)
fund-specific information on asset allocation for current year contributions
fund specific information on asset allocation for aggregate account balances for beginning and end of plan year
loan balance and withdrawal activity
Defined Contribution Plan Level Data:
Plan design information — this would include qualitative plan information on:
NAGDCA has housed plan-level survey results from it Benchmarking Survey in an online portal since 2016. The purpose of the portal is to offer an interactive platform for plan sponsors to have the opportunity to compare their plan-level data to their peers directly. The portal allows for comparisons based on dozens of plan-level characteristics that can be combined in any way the sponsor chooses. The portal cannot be used to see the data from a single plan other than your own, as any search resulting in the aggregation of data from less than five plans shows “Insignificant Data”.
In the new process, PRRL researchers will securely export plan-level data directly to the portal, replacing the current Benchmarking Survey format.
The “You v. Universe” report is a detailed benchmarking report comparing your data to the universe of public sector defined contribution plans and a subset of your peers based on dozens of characteristics. The final format of this report is still being developed, and will be based on the feedback from our plan sponsor community.
Several recordkeepers in the government industry are actively working with NAGDCA and EBRI to develop the database. We are working with them to create a common format for the data requests so they are applied uniformly across recordkeeper systems. The data will be reviewed, cleaned, and organized by dedicated PRRL staff once it is received.
Your authorization will be required for participation in this project. If you need to discuss the project with your board, committee, or other approval authority to receive the necessary approval, we recommend starting those discussions soon. Please see the “PRRL Talking Points” button at the top of this page for a summary of points to share with your committee or board.