Callan Survey Lays Blueprint for DC Governance Committee Best Practices

Findings emphasize critical need for well-structured and resourced committees for DC plan success

San Francisco, Oct. 18, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- (October 18, 2017)—Callan LLC published the results of its first-ever DC Plan Governance Survey to help DC plan sponsors better understand good governance practices, including how their peers are structuring their oversight committees and the attendant success or challenges.

The survey identified common approaches and best practices for:

  • committee structure
  • composition
  • number of meetings
  • setting meeting agendas
  • fiduciary training

It also identified steps plan sponsors can take to improve committee effectiveness. The findings reaffirmed Callan’s view that a properly structured and resourced committee serves as a critical foundation on which a DC plan thrives.

“Strong governance committees are essential for helping DC plan sponsors meet their fiduciary responsibilities,” said survey author Jana Steele, a vice president in Callan's DC Consulting group. “And the stakes are higher than ever given the increasing complexity of DC plan requirements and the deluge of DC plan lawsuits. Mindful consideration of governance supports the plan, plan sponsor, and participants.”

Additional key findings include:

Large plans preferred to split the difference: Plans with higher participant counts were more likely to have separate committees—administrative and investment—than smaller plans, which were more likely to have a single committee.

Size matters: Across committee types, poor participation and clarity around roles corresponded with a higher-than-average number of committee members.

Improving the odds: Investment and administrative committees with an even number of members were more likely to report challenges with strained internal resources.

Fiduciary training isn’t a given: While most committees reported annual or at least periodic fiduciary training, nearly one in seven respondents from single committees noted no fiduciary training had been done.

The hand that rocks the cradle rules: The party responsible for setting the agenda influenced the committee’s priorities (i.e., staff vs. committee head).

Committees tend to work: In general, respondents viewed their committees as highly effective.

Callan’s DC Governance Survey, conducted in May 2017, gathered responses from 106 institutions; 57% were corporations, 22% public agencies, and 22% tax-exempt organizations. Respondents represented more than 16 fields, with government agencies (19%) the most prevalent, followed by financial services (11%). Energy/utilities and health care were tied for third, at 9%. Among respondents, 72% reported maintaining a 401(k) plan, followed by 457 plans (28%), and 401(a) plans (25%).


The full survey is available on Callan’s website, titled “DC Observer, 3rd Quarter 2017.” While the website does request users register, the survey results, like all of Callan’s Research Library contents, are offered at no cost.



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About Callan

Callan was founded as an employee-owned investment consulting firm in 1973. Since that time, we have empowered institutional clients with creative, customized investment solutions that are backed by proprietary research, exclusive data, and ongoing education. Today, Callan advises on more than $2 trillion in total fund sponsor assets, which makes it among the largest independently owned investment consulting firms in the U.S. Callan uses a client-focused consulting model to serve pension and defined contribution plan sponsors, endowments, foundations, independent investment advisers, investment managers, and other asset owners. Callan has five offices throughout the U.S. For more information, please visit


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