Wrap-up: DC plan sponsor challenges and opportunities

Wrapping up the 2020 DC Plan Summit with his customary flair, Zaheed Jiwani, principal and leader of the DC consulting group at Eckler Ltd., highlighted the pervasive themes through a selection of songs.

With Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends,” he noted how the plan sponsor case studies shared real-life examples of how employers are helping plan members, whether it’s done paternalistically or by helping employees understand their paths to retirement.

Referring to the keynote presentation’s comparison of literal and symbolic communications, Jiwani said he doesn’t believe it’s an either-or situation.

Read: Is your pension communication message getting through?

“People learn through stories. Many of the presentations we’ve heard today had stories, and those stories resonate with you. That’s your symbolism but you back it up by fact — the literal. We can’t just give them the literal because no one is going to read pages and pages of information.”

The DC plan industry is dealing with a lot of challenges, he noted, as he played Run-DMC’s “It’s Tricky.” These include the social and ethical impacts of AI, innovations in target-date funds, complex decumulation options and combining assets classes or sources of income.

“Think about it with the end in mind. If you think about DB plans that, for all those years, were just looking at the asset base, not really focused on the liabilities. Well, now they’re focused on the liabilities, on outcomes. So we should be focused on the outcomes, which are the sources of retirement income, and work backwards.”

Playing U.S.A. for Africa’s “We Are The World,” Jiwani underlined some sessions’ focus on sustainability. “If you’re going to look at ESG, you need to incorporate it in your overall process, to go all the way up, whether it’s governance, whether it’s in the culture. And, if you’re going through that process, make sure the committee understands the buy-in. It’s not just a corporate initiative or somebody else’s initiative. The community has to buy into it.”

Read: Taking a broader view of pension plan sustainability

Finally, Jiwani played “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, noting this might be something plan sponsors have to say to their members when talking about financial wellness. It’s more than just about retirement planning, he said, and has to incorporate benefits, other finances and overall financial planning, because that’s what the member is experiencing in their real lives.

“We know there’s a huge challenge of financial literacy in our industry, in Canada and globally. So how do you tackle financial literacy as a plan sponsor? At what level do you tackle it, because we know you need to in some shape and form.”

Read more stories from the 2020 DC Plan Summit.