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Examining Q1 2014 Benefits Administration Activity

Following a flurry of benefits administration activity in H2 2013 that focused on contract awards for corporate health exchanges for active employees, the first quarter of the year seemed to be just as busy for providers in both the U.S. and U.K. This is a strong stark contrast to H2 2013, when much of the activity in Q1 was focused on DC administration.

Private sector activity outpaced public sector activity, which tended to focus around contract renewals.  Examples include Great-West renewing its contracts with the City of Houston and the State of Alabama.

Approximately one-fifth of the activity consisted of vendor changes including:

  • Fidelity Investments winning FirstEnergy for DC administration covering 21k employees (formerly serviced by ING – now operating as Voya Financial)
  • MassMutual Retirement Services winning a Taft-Hartley multi-employer retirement plan contract by Electrical Workers Local 466
  • JLT winning Santander UK for DB and DC administration covering 100k employees.

The mid-market (<15k employees) surpassed the large market, accounting for nearly two thirds of activity.

The general theme around new offerings, including tools and features, was around facilitating retirement planning and savings:

  • ING / Voya Financial launching a financial planning and budgeting tool to enable participants to prepare for retirement
  • Fidelity’s new suite of tools for retirement planning including “Executive Insights” and “The On Plan Indicator” for employers, and “Easy Enroll & Easy Savings Program” and “Personal Progress Report” for employees
  • Charles Schwab RPS launching exchange-traded funds for DC plan sponsors
  • Bank of America’s retirement app, Face Retirement
  • Fidelity expanding the use of NetBenefits to iPad mobile tablets and incorporating new features, e.g., peer comparison.

Partnership activity was flat year-over-year, but down relative to the last few quarters.  M&A activity, which has been quite active since Q3 2013 continued in both the U.S. and U.K. with notable mentions for the following:

  • Mercer acquiring Transition Assist to expand its retiree exchange offering
  • Great-West merging its DC administration business with Putnam following a reorganization by its parent
  • JLT acquiring Ensign Pensions Admin (formerly MNPA) in the U.K. 

One final remark with regard to Q1 activity is Towers Watson’s announcement of moving its H&W administration business within its Exchange Solutions segment.  This change closely aligns all of Towers Watson’s administrative health benefits activities together.

As April comes to a close, Q2 appears that it will be just as eventful as Q1 in both the U.S. and U.K.  Stayed tuned for another quarterly summary and half year synopsis.

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