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2017 Excellence & Innovation Awards 

P&I and DCIIA 2017 Excellence & Innovation Awards - nominations were closed on June 2, 2017.
Pensions & Investments and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA) are co-sponsoring the sixth annual Awards of Excellence & Innovation for defined contribution plan executives and their employers.

2016 Excellence & Innovation Awards Winners

The 2016 Excellence and Innovation Awards were presented October 24 at the annual 
P&I West Coast Defined Contribution Conference in San Diego 

6 honored for excellence, innovation in DC plans 
Technology to foster education a common theme among winners

Now in its fifth year, the awards program of Pensions & Investments and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association has a new name and a wider reach.

“The quality and range of initiatives in the nominations we received this year was truly amazing, and is a real testament to the growing focus in the plan sponsor community in helping to ensure employees' retirement security,” said Lew Minsky, president and CEO of DCIIA.

“Over the years, we noticed that there were executives and companies achieving great outcomes by going the extra mile with their plans,” said Amy B. Resnick, editor of P&I. “The program now recognizes both innovation and excellence.”

The winners are:

  • Katie Nedl, formerly head of global benefits, and now chief operating officer of the U.S.-Canada defined contribution group, BlackRock (BLK) Inc. (BLK), New York;
  • Neil Saxton, executive-engagement strategy, Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia, Melbourne, Australia;
  • Dana Hammonds, senior director of player affairs and development, the National Football League Players Association, Washington;
  • Sheila Rowaily, head of the investment management, Saudi Arabian Oil. Co., Dhahran, Saudi Arabia;
  • Erika Kirchner, vice president of human resources, Bertelsmann Inc., New York, and;
  • Shirley Zabiegala, director of savings and retirement for Nestle USA Inc., Solon, Ohio. 

The winners: Dana Hammonds, left, Erika Kirchner, Neil Saxton, Shirley Zabiegala, Sheila Rowaily and Katie Nedl.

Different approaches

BlackRock executives prepared an interactive video that responded to participants depending on their investing strategy and performance, always with a theme of encouraging greater participation and greater contributions.

HESTA unveiled a digital-based communication campaign, using data analytics, to reach specific audiences.

Saudi Aramco had the challenge of trying to expand the number of investment opportunities for Saudi and other Arab nation employees while still adhering to Shariah principles.

Managed account option

National Football League Players Association had offered a sort of one-size-fits-all financial education program for both active and retired players. Ms. Hammonds revised the approach to provide information to specific groups of players — early career, midcareer and late career — as well as retired players.

Bertelsmann plan executives decided to give participants who are 45 and older the opportunity to select a managed account as their qualified default investment alternative rather than a traditional target-date fund series.

Nestle USA created a targeted education program, called Smart$aving Academy, tailored to the skills and interests of participants and to look like a college curriculum.

Full details, here

DCIIA and P&I 2016 Excellence and Innovation Awards - Nominations Reopened

There is still an opportunity to submit a nomination for an outstanding DC executive for an Excellence & Innovation Award. 
Entries reopened until June 10.

Mark your calendars:  the 2016 winners will be announced at P&I's West Coast Defined Contribution Conference, to be held October 23-25 in San Diego, California. 

DCIIA and P&I 2016 Excellence and Innovation Awards - Nomination Process


DCIIA and P&I Accepting Nominations for 2016 Excellence and Innovation Awards 

We are now accepting entries for our 2016 Excellence and Innovation Awards.  DCIIA and Pensions & Investments are co-sponsoring the fifth annual Awards of Excellence & Innovation for defined contribution plan executives and their employers. 

We want to recognize those people and their employers who are ahead of the herd making new and unusual changes that ultimately will improve participant outcomes in retirement.  Maybe you would be the ideal nominee. Or maybe you know someone who has done something innovative or unique. Please help ensure that these leaders are nominated. 

The focus on driving successful outcomes has been accelerating in defined contribution plans, and Pensions & Investments and DCIIA want to highlight and celebrate the plan sponsors that are leading the charge through their innovation and excellence.

There are no predetermined categories; the possibilities are endless. Past winners, for example, were chosen for their cutting-edge ideas in plan design, investing, retirement income, and new ways to target specific employee groups with retirement plan information. For a look at the 2015 winners, click here.  

The program began as the Innovator Awards but now has a new name. When founded, the program aimed to recognize DC plan executives who developed creative and unusual programs to help improve their participants' retirement incomes.  As the judges noticed that there are multiple factors driving good outcomes -- including innovation in design and excellence in execution -- the program now aims to recognize both. 

We are looking for programs implemented on or after January 1, 2015. 
There is no fee to enter. 

For additional information and to access the entry form, click the button below. Self-nominations are encouraged. Nominations also will be accepted from colleagues and from people outside an organization who are familiar with the work being done. 

The 2016 winners will be announced at P&I's West Coast Defined Contribution Conference, to be held October 23-25 in San Diego, California.  P&I's article announcing the opening of the nomination process can be viewed by clicking here.

Full details can be found at: www.pionline.com/innovationawards2016.

Contact Amy Resnick (aresnick@pionline.com) or Michelle DeMarco (mdemarco@pionline.com) with any questions.


Congratulations to the 2015 Recipients of DCIIA’s and Pensions & Investments’ Innovator Award

Congratulations to the 2015 winners of DCIIA’s and Pensions & Investments’ fourth annual Innovator Awards and Awards of Excellence for defined contribution plan executives and their employers who implemented new and unusual changes that ultimately will improve their participants’ outcome in retirement.  
The winners were announced and recognized at Pensions & Investments’ 2015 West Coast Defined Contribution Conference held October 18-20 in San Francisco.  DCIIA and Pensions & Investments co-sponsor this annual award for innovation by defined contribution plans and their executives.
This year’s four Innovators are:

  • Janet Cowell, North Carolina treasurer, for administering a statewide centralized 403(b) plan that helps elementary school teachers and other public school personnel take advantage of lower fees, institutional investment management and improved fiduciary oversight, after having persuaded legislators to approve the plan;
  • Tarna Hunter, legislative liaison, and Shelly Schueller, Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program director, in the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds for creating a marketing program aimed at improving women's understanding of and contributions to retirement savings;
  • Barbara Kontje, director of global retirement and smart saving, and her team at American Express Co. for building a foundation, through the company's first global retirement summit, to create best practices among plans in the many countries in which company employees work; and
  • Dina Pon, assistant vice president for human resources with the Government Employees Insurance Company of Chevy Chase, Maryland for implementing a detailed, data-driven financial wellness program from HelloWallet.

The judges also gave Awards of Excellence to:

  • Cindy Rehmeier, manager of defined contribution plans, Missouri State Employees' Retirement System, Jefferson City;
  • Joel Sheppard, director, education and marketing, Utah Retirement Systems, Salt Lake City;
  • Francie Purnell, corporate director, retirement plans, Republic National Distributing Co., Atlanta;
  • Janet McGorty, vice president, head of total rewards, Delhaize America, Scarborough, Maine;
  • Carl Vance, chief investment officer, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Ore.; and
  • Deborah Macchia, executive director, global benefits, ITT Corp., White Plains, N.Y.

Read the full story on Pensions & Investments here.

5 lauded for DC breakthroughs with Innovator Awards (Pensions & Investments – 11.2.15)

DCIIA and Pensions & Investments' 2015 Innovator Awards
Nominations closed on May 22






Winners will be announced and recognized at Pensions & Investments’ 2015 West Coast Defined Contribution Conference, to be held October, 18-20, 2015 in San Francisco.

Full details can be found here.

Past Winners/details below

Innovator Awards Overview

  • The Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA) and Pensions and Investments (P&I), co-sponsor this annual award for innovation by defined contribution plans and their executives. 
  • DCIIA partnered with P&I, in 2012, to create the Innovator Awards and in only two years, these awards have become a recognized standard for plan sponsor excellence and a signature part of the P&I DC West Conference.
  • In its inaugural year, 50 defined contribution plan executives were nominated for Innovator Awards.

2014 Innovator Awards – San Diego

  • 5 who went the extra mile for participants  – Read more – the full story
  • We're excited to share the 2014 award winners of the third annual awards, announced at the Pensions & Investments' 2014 West Coast Defined Contribution Conference. 
P&I & DCIIA announce 2014 Innovator Award winners (from left): QSuper's Rosemary Vilgan; Massachhusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman; International Paper's Carol Sung; Buck Consultants' Jeannie Lowe; and New York Deferred Comp's Georgette Gestely.

Award of Excellence Winners

In addition, the Innovator judges selected the following Award of Excellence winners:

Steven Montagna, Plan Manager – City of Los Angeles
Tammy Jurinsky, Senior Manager, North America Benefits – DENSO International Americas, Inc.
Pete Apor, Director – Fujitsu
Ron Virtue, Director, Investments – JM Family Enterprises
Sonja Kellen, Director, Global Retirement Benefits – Microsoft Corporation
Kari Steen, Group Manager  – Target
Brant Suddath, Director of Benefits – The Home Depot
Hugh Penney, Senior Director of Compensation and Benefits – Yale University

 2013 Innovator Awards – San Francisco

  • 7 bold, creative execs lauded – the seven Innovator Awards winners used ancient traditions and modern technology — sometimes concurrently — to enhance retirement education, read more...
  • About 60 defined contribution plan executives were nominated for Innovator Awards in this second year. 

2013 Winners:
Angela Buk, Head of Risk Management and Operations, Chrysler Group LLC, Auburn Hills, Mich., for outcome orientation;
Sophie Dmuchowski, Deputy Director, Office of Communications and Education, Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, Washington, lifetime income disclosure;
Britt Huber, Vice President for Human Resources at Kiva Microfunds Inc., San Francisco, technology and behavioral finance;
Lois Osorno, Director of Human Resources for Aloha Petroleum Ltd., Honolulu, education and communication;
Chad Ryan, Director of Retirement Plans at PepsiCo Inc., Somers, N.Y., addressing plan leakage;
Philip White, Director of Racker Rewards at Rackspace Hosting Inc., San Antonio, Texas, financial wellness; and
David Zellner, Chief Investment Officer of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, Glenview, Ill., for distribution planning.

2013 Award of Excellence Winners
In addition, the Innovator judges selected the following Award of Excellence winners:

David Beik, Vice President for Operations at Verizon Investment Management Corp., a unit of Verizon Communications Inc., Basking Ridge, N.J., expanded the use of alternatives in Verizon's custom target-date funds. These alternatives included commodities, infrastructure, global equity, global high-yield bonds and active currency.

Lisa Blasdale, Senior Benefits Manager, Staples Inc., Framingham, Mass., used a game-show format to educate participants about retirement savings.  A meeting, aimed primarily at first-generation Americans less familiar with retirement accounts, included a master of ceremonies asking Staples employees about their experiences with retirement planning. For the game show, modeled after “Family Feud,” employee teams were asked questions about retirement topics discussed earlier in the meeting.

Tim Berry, former Indiana State Auditor in Indianapolis, added auto enrollment and auto escalation to the Indiana Deferred Compensation Plans, known as Hoosier S.T.A.R.T.  Mr. Berry, who oversaw the plans, expanded the custom-target date portfolios to include alternatives such as unconstrained bonds and an absolute-return fund.

Tom Gonnella, Executive Vice President, Lincoln Trust Co., Denver, restructured his company's plan to achieve greater results through greater simplicity. Lincoln's Smart Plan eliminates core options. Instead, it defaults participants into low-cost, risk-based models that are professionally managed.  Mr. Gonnella changed the strategy in part because he found 25% of participants either had no equities or 100% equities in their accounts.

Helene Sanford, the Palm Bay, Fla.-based Director of Human Resources and Compensation for Intersil Corp., coordinated a revamping of the company's 401(k) plan that included expanding its financial wellness program. The Intersil program features a health-cost calculator, giving participants a broader picture of their future beyond salary and retirement savings.

Michele Talka, Senior Director, HR operations, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute, Tampa, Fla., restructured two defined contribution plans by changing auto-enrollment and auto-escalation features, revising the vesting schedules and changing the employer-match formula to reward greater participation.

Thomas Woodruff, Director of the Healthcare Policy and Benefit Services Division in the Connecticut comptroller's office, Hartford, sought to simplify participants' investment choices in the state's three defined contribution plans. Mr. Woodruff helped establish eight custom-risk portfolios ranging from ultraconservative to ultra-aggressive.

Gina Zoetvelt, former Senior Benefits Manager, Motorola Solutions Inc., Schaumburg, Ill., continued her company's focus on getting workers who are nearing retirement to take advantage of managed accounts. As participants turn 60, Motorola automatically enrolls them in a program that contains investment advice, a managed account and a mechanism for providing monthly payments upon retirement. Participants may opt out.

“In reading through the diverse approaches taken by our innovators, it became clear that innovation isn't just coming up with the "next big thing,'” said Lew Minsky, executive director of DCIIA, who is based in Jupiter, Fla. “Instead, it's about being willing to take the often tireless, and sometimes risky, steps and strides of change.”

Nancy K. Webman, P&I's Chicago-based editor, agreed. She added: “To me, it didn't always matter how major the innovation was. What mattered to me was that all 15 finalists were bold, taking less-traveled paths as it were in order to get their participants to a better place when they retire.”

2012 Inaugural Innovator Awards – San Francisco

  • 5-gutsy-dc-plan-execs-are-honored-with-innovator-awards – the five Innovator Award recipients ranged from those creating programs that sound like case studies of the awards' purpose to – read more...
  • The inaugural awards were presented on November 5, 2012 at P&I's West Coast Defined Contribution conference in San Francisco.

2012 Winners:
Dan Holupchinski
, Manager of Retirement Plans for Deluxe Corp., Shoreview, Minn., who won in the plan design category;
Kevin Hanney, Director of Non-U.S. Pensions and Savings plans at United Technologies Corp., Hartford, Conn., winner in the retirement income category;
Carol Cypert, Manager of the City and County of San Francisco Employees Retirement System's Deferred Compensation Program;
Barbara Kontje, Director of Global Retirement and Smart Saving for American Express Co., one of two new media winners; and
Bernie Knobbe, Senior Director, Global Benefits and Global Mobility for Yahoo! Inc., the other new media winner.

2012 Award of Excellence Winners
In addition, the Innovator judges selected the following Awards of Excellence winners:

Delbert Johnson, Administrator, Adventist Retirement Plans, Silver Spring, Md., oversaw the launch of a custom target-date portfolio with a glide path tailored to participants who typically have "fiscally modest goals," a conservative investing style, and seek to have "just enough" in retirement, rather than "maximum wealth accumulation," according to the nomination form.

Lisa Sanders, Director of Compensation and Benefits, McCarthy Building Cos., St. Louis, won for a program that rewards employees with a $50 reduction in their medical insurance premiums for every retirement education webinar they attend. She also was instrumental in adding auto-escalation and auto-rebalancing features.

Gina Zoevelt, Senior Benefits Consultant, Motorola Solutions Inc., Schaumburg, Ill., re-enrolled participants 60 and older who weren't using advisory services. Although re-enrollment isn't new, one judge applauded the "new wrinkle of targeting a certain group of at-risk employees and providing one-on-one consultation."

Judith Seitz, Interim Director of Compensation and Benefits, Holy Spirit Health System, Camp Hill, Pa., created an education policy statement. One judges said such a statement is "a great way to provide a structured process to think strategically and develop a comprehensive communication and education plan."

Sabrina Ruderer, Vice President, Total Awards, HCA Healthcare, Nashville, introduced a program to roll over participants' assets into the HCA plan from previous employers' retirement plans. That "could definitely help (participants) avoid the easy way out — cashing out their former plan accounts," one judge said.

Bill Easterbrook, President, Adventist HealthCare Retirement Plans, Roseville, Calif., was cited for offering an in-plan retirement income option for the 403(b) and 401(a) plans. The option — a customized guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit — has not been used much in the not-for-profit market, judges noted.

"DCIIA partnered with P&I to develop this new award to recognize those willing to be ahead of the herd and take steps designed to improve participants' retirement income security," said Lew Minsky, executive director of DCIIA, Washington. "We are really excited about the inaugural group of innovators, and we are hoping that recognizing their efforts will help encourage others to adopt similar approaches."

P&I Editor Nancy K. Webman agreed, adding: "We wanted to find people who took gutsy, creative approaches, and we did."