Hartford, Conn. — Insurers are beginning to seize a unique opportunity to help employees minimize the risks associated with defined contribution plans such as 401(k) plans and, at the same time, compete more effectively with mutual funds, according to a new study by Conning Research and Consulting.

"Traditional pensions, also known as defined benefit plans, are a thing of the past for most Americans," says Greg Smith, analyst at Conning Research & Consulting, Hartford, Conn. "Employers have replaced traditional pensions with defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s, offering primarily mutual funds for investments. While these defined contribution plans are more flexible, they also are riskier for the average retiree than the defined benefit plans they replace. The risks range from employee non-participation and cash outs to investor errors and market risks. Further, in retirement, defined contribution plans participants also must grapple with longevity and inflation risks."

The Conning Research study, "Personal Pensions in the U.S.: A New Retirement Planning Asset Class," presents retiree income needs and risks, and analyzes how life insurers can fill the retirement security gaps in defined contribution plans.

"Insurers are beginning to develop products such as fixed income shares and hybrid mutual fund wrappers for the both the employer-sponsored and individual retirement markets to help employees and consumers purchase guaranteed income for their retirement years," said Stephan Christiansen, director of research at Conning. "The structure of these products play to the strengths of insurers, and may well reduce many of the risks that currently plague retirees. Insurers can win assets from mutual funds and earn fees while creating a new, secure asset class of guaranteed income for retirees."

Source: Conning Research

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