Technology Preferences For Plan Participants



Considering the importance of the assets plan participants place in their defined contribution accounts, it is perhaps a bit odd that they do not pay closer attention to those funds.

But it may be that those days are over. Plan participants have so many ways to access information about their accounts and many are taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Today, plan participants likely can research their defined contribution account and make changes to allocations via their plan provider website or app. They can access the information at home on their personal computer, they can access it via a website from their smartphone or tablet, or they can use an app to determine how their DC account is performing.

With all of those choices, a plan participant has no excuse for not knowing what is going on with their accounts.

And they are likely using all of those choices to stay abreast of matters related to the coronavirus. Spectrem’s three-month study - Corona Crash: What Advisors Should Be Saying To Investors Now - shows that investors are accessing information about how to handle financial matters in this time of crisis on all of the technologies they have at their disposal. 

According to the study, 57 percent of all investors make use of materials provided to them electronically while considering financial options surrounding the coronavirus crisis. Among there choices are webinars (24 percent of investors say their financial advisor provides coronavirus advice via webinar), videos (12 percent), podcasts (7 percent) and other educational materials (24 percent) on their websites or apps. 

While it is useful to have plan participants have the capability to receive updates on coronavirus matters via electronic means, they also need to know that they can receive further information by contacting their provider. Make certain your website and app designs include invitations to contact a provider for more detailed information about their account specifics.

Your clients are going to be able to use the materials you provide electronically because they have been using websites and apps for some time to keep track of their investments, including those clients who are plan participants and want to keep abreast of their defined contribution plan allocations.   

According to Spectrem’s DC Participant Series Attitudes, Behaviors and Advisor Relationships, almost 80 percent of all plan participants access information or conduct transactions for their retirement accounts via technology. That percentage rises to 87 percent among Millennial participants.

The most popular way in which plan participants access their retirement account information is website from their personal computer. Among all participants, 61.8 percent access the website via their personal computer, but a smaller percentage of Millennials (60.4 percent) are doing it that way. Website access is likely to remain the top mechanism investors use for some time, despite the ease of access from apps.

Often, investors say websites provide more detailed information. For older investors, websites are easier to navigate than apps.

That being said, almost 40 percent of plan participants access their account information via an app from their smartphone, and 6.5 percent use the app from their tablet. For those investors who are on their smartphones all of the time and not sitting in front of their computers, app access if very important. It is, then, also vital that a provider’s app offers the same services which are available on the website. Ease of navigation is a factor that must go into the design of account apps.

Only 11 percent of plan participants access the website from their smartphone. So, it comes down to from which type of technology these investors are looking up information; smartphone users go to the app, personal computer uses prefer the website.



©Spectrem 2020

Keywords: technology, social media, digital, defined contribution, Spectrem, retirement, plan participants