For those of you who are not familiar, BrightScope is a start-up company that has introduced an online-database and ranking tool for 401(k) plans. They use information culled from 5500 reports and the DOL to gather data and rank plans along six key factors:
- Total Plan Cost
- Company Generosity
- Investment Menu Quality
- Participation Rate
- Salary Deferrals
- Account Balance
While some criticize BrightScope’s methodology and the quality of their data, one thing is for sure. BrightScope has contributed to the needed conversation about 401(k) costs and the overall quality of plans companies offer to their employees.
I recently received an email from a client for whom I had done a financial plan for his personal situation in early 2009. At the time I had mentioned to him that I could also be of help with his small company’s 401(k) plan. His recent email cited the fact that he had looked at his plan’s BrightScope ranking and was disturbed by the fact his company’s plan had the lowest rankings for both plan cost and investment menu quality. His plan is with a well-known insurance company so I was not surprised by his note.
Where will this go, to be determined. Is this a success story and an example of what BrightScope can facilitate? Yes.
The next step is for the client and I to sit down and review the details of his plan. If there are indeed cost and investment quality issues I will see if I can propose a better solution.
To me the power of BrightScope is getting the conversation started. I would encourage anyone charged with making decisions on their company’s 401(k) plan to check their plan on BrightScope. If your plan isn’t ranked or if you feel the ranking is based on inaccurate data (currently the data is accurate through the 2008 5500s) I would encourage you to contact the company and provide them with data that is more up to date.
Plan participants, you can also use BrightScope to see how your company’s plan stacks up. There is a link on the site for participants to register.
Plan sponsors if you need help in doing an in-depth review of your your company’s plan (investments, cost, investment process, etc.) or if you feel that it is time to engage an independent third-party advisor, please feel free to contact me.