U.S. Retirement Markets 2021

Solidifying Relationships with Plan Sponsors and Participants

Master the U.S. Retirement Market

  • Review uptake from plan sponsors in pooled employer plans (PEPs)
  • Access retirement plan coverage and initiatives to close the “coverage gap”
  • Learn more about developments in recordkeeping technology
  • Assess plan sponsors’ strategic priorities, investment menu construction, retirement income offerings, financial wellness objectives, and service provider relationships


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US Retirement Markets 2020 Detail

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Maeve Flanagan

Maeve Flanagan

Senior Account Manager


This annual report represents Cerulli’s broadest coverage and most comprehensive sizing of the U.S. retirement market and addresses the following retirement segments: IRAs, corporate and NFP/governmental DC plans, and corporate and public DB plans. The report also highlights results from Cerulli’s annual DC Recordkeeper and 401(k) Plan Sponsor Surveys.

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Each report is lead authored by a senior Cerulli analyst with significant industry experience. The report incorporates qualitative and quantitative inputs, based on Cerulli’s proprietary research process. For more on our research process, click here.

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A Note From the Author

Recordkeepers Get a Wakeup Call

Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Shawn O'Brien, CFA


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Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Shawn O'Brien, CFA


Shawn leads the U.S. Retirement research practice, which focuses on the defined contribution (DC) and individual retirement account (IRA) markets. He also leads and supports strategic consulting projects for asset managers on their DC-related market entry and product distribution strategies.

Prior to joining Cerulli Associates, Shawn worked as a Research Associate at Harvard Business School, where he co-authored case studies on investment management for professional and personal investors and managing and innovating in financial services. Prior to that, he worked in the Currency Management group at State Street Global Markets, employing currency overlay strategies for large asset managers and asset owners.

Full biography here.

Nearly half (44%) of 401(k) plan sponsors are conducting a recordkeeper search in the next 12 months. One-quarter (25%) are simply looking to benchmark recordkeeper services or fees, but one in five (19%) plan sponsors are actively seeking a new recordkeeper. Why and why now? According to our research, plan sponsors chiefly want to consolidate vendors—they seek a partner that can maintain participant retirement accounts, but also administer health savings accounts (HSAs) or equity compensation plans. Cost, advanced technical capabilities, and cybersecurity are also top considerations. This increased search activity is happening on the heels of widespread consolidation in the recordkeeping market. There is a greater need for recordkeepers to achieve larger scale to remain profitable in a low-margin business, creating a challenge for smaller vendors.

Learn what it will take for recordkeepers to win and retain plan sponsor business across plan asset segments with our latest report, U.S. Retirement Markets 2021: Solidifying Relationships with Plan Sponsors and Participants. This research highlights key challenges and opportunities in the recordkeeper market, but also represents Cerulli’s broadest coverage and sizing of the U.S. retirement market, addressing the following market segments: individual retirement accounts (IRAs), corporate and not-for-profit (NFP)/governmental defined contribution (DC) plans, Taft-Hartley DC plans, DC multiple-employer plans (MEPs), and corporate and public defined benefit (DB) plans.

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