The ability to provide sound investment advice is emerging as a top competitive advantage for insurers who provide defined contribution plans, according to a new study from Conning & Co., Hartford, Conn. In the wake of the Enron debacle, employers are looking to 401(k) plan providers to steer employees to appropriate investment options and clearly disclose any risks associated with these plans. In the study, titled "The Retirement Markets-The Pressures and the Promise," Conning reports that as companies further embrace defined contribution plans, they do not want to be morally or legally responsible for employees' retirement investment decisions. This has created a competitive advantage for 401(k) providers who can deliver more personalized investment advice and customer service to plan participants.

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