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Benchmarking Your Retirement Plan Committee(s)

Client Services

It’s been said that a committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours, but the reality is that they are an essential element in assuring prudent retirement plan operation and administration—even when they are a committee of one. 

While there is no “perfect” number of committees—or committee members—their construction, monitoring, and maintenance is critical to their effective operation, as is the design of the plan function(s) they oversee. Little wonder that over the years, Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) members have been curious as to the experience of other organizations, how and how often these bodies are benchmarked, how many and who participate, as well as how often they convene in order to comply with those needs. 

In response to these inquiries, PSCA conducted a snapshot survey in April 2021 to answer these questions. PSCA received responses from 255 plan sponsors representing a range of industries and plan sizes.

Number of Committees 

Though the majority of respondents indicated that their company has one committee (63.9%), there is a wide variety in how those committees are structured and many factors are size-correlated with, perhaps intuitively, larger organizations having more committees and more formalized/structured committees.

Twenty percent of organizations have two retirement-focused committees, but larger organizations are much more likely to have multiple committees—40% of plans with 5,000 or more participants have two committees, versus only 10% of plans with fewer than 200 participants. 

Formalized Committees 

Nearly 80% of respondents indicated that their organization has a document that formally establishes their plan committee(s), and nearly all large organizations do (93.5% of plans with 5,000 or more participants), though it’s much less common among smaller organizations (52.8% of plans with fewer than 200 participants). 

Organizations are less likely to have a formal document that specifies which job positions serve on which committees (38.2% of plans). However, the size correlation also holds true here—twice as many (54.1%) large organizations have one than do smaller organizations (26.4%).

Committee Participation 

The most common criterion for determining who participates on committees is job title, with expertise a close second (particularly on the investment committee), and willingness to participate a distant third. 

Though the majority of committees have between 5 and 10 participants, this is again size-correlated with smaller organizations much more likely to have fewer than five committee participants and large organizations much more likely to have between 5 and 10 participants.

The picture is mixed regarding member overlap between those committees. A plurality (44.3%) say there is some overlap, and more than one-in-five (22.8%) allow that most do. However, a quarter (25.3%) do not have any participant overlap between committees.

About two-thirds of organizations have legal counsel participate in committee meetings, though that’s the case among only half of organizations with fewer than 1,000 plan participants, in contrast to the 91.9% of organizations with more than 5,000 participants. Large organizations are also more likely to have internal counsel always participate on committees (66.1%), while small organizations are more likely to have counsel participate only when specific issues arise (30.2%).

Committees most commonly meet quarterly across the board. However, nearly 90% of large organizations hold investment committee meeting quarterly, while fewer than half of small organizations do and nearly 40% of small organizations hold them semi-annually. 


Retirement plan committee structures are as varied as the companies that sponsor them. Though there is perhaps no “wrong” way to structure a retirement committee, most companies have at least one formal committee to oversee retirement plan administration, and many have two. Most committees have between 5 and 10 participants, and while there is no list of job titles that always serve on committees, many companies determine committee participation by job title.

Regardless of committee structure for retirement plan oversight, however, having a documented prudent process in place remains the best practice—and protection—for retirement plan fiduciaries. The full report is available on PSCA’s website here.

Nevin E. Adams, JD, is the Head of Research and Chief Content Officer for the American Retirement Association. Hattie Greenan is the Director of Research and Communications for the Plan Sponsor Council of America.