The DOL has expanded the definition of fiduciary. More individuals are now fiduciaries than ever before. There’s more nationwide awareness of the “fiduciary” term and its corresponding fiduciaries.

Yet it appears that many fiduciaries are not receiving the message. A recent bulletin from J.P. Morgan shows that an “alarming percentage” of individuals who oversee company 401(k) or other defined contribution plans are not aware of their fiduciary status. Despite the greater attention paid to fiduciaries and the broader fiduciary standard now in effect, 43% of fiduciaries are STILL not aware they are fiduciaries. That is indeed alarming.

Are you among that 43%? If you are not – that is, if you are a fiduciary and aware of that status – J.P. Morgan found that you are much more likely to act in a fiduciary manner. For example, on average, you are more likely to be confident that your plan’s governance includes an appropriate process to monitor and document investment decisions. As the bulletin concluded: “those who are aware of their fiduciary status are more likely to employ prudent fiduciary practices than those who don’t think they are fiduciaries or are not certain of their status.”

Perhaps most importantly, it also found that “those who know they are fiduciaries are more likely to have a philosophy that supports proactively placing participants on a strong saving and investment path.” Those fiduciaries who know they are fiduciaries are significantly more likely to:

  • automatically enroll employees;
  • automatically escalate contribution rates; and
  • use a Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA).

What does this mean?  Informed, educated fiduciaries are the best fiduciaries. By understanding their status, they are more likely to appreciate their responsibilities – as well as the risks of noncompliance. Take note: fiduciary risk is both considerably complex and simply manageable. That process starts with fiduciary education.

Matt Eickman

Matt Eickman

Full Bio

Matthew loves to write. He also loves to think, though he’s probably a better writer than a thinker. He does not like to be on camera or in videos. This blog will allow him to write, challenge his ability to think, and, from time to time, test him with video blog entries.

He has a unique blend of legal and practical experience that helps us to serve our clients well. On the one hand, he has more than 12 years of private legal practice experience focusing exclusively on employee benefits, including time as a partner in an employee benefits boutique where he has represented clients in front of the DOL and IRS. On the other hand, he holds his FINRA Series 7 and 66 registrations and serves as the Director of ERISA Services for Qualified Plan Advisors.

Matthew likes to stay active. He provides fiduciary training, Investment Policy Statement design, and vendor oversight to our clients. He is an active member of the Employee Benefits Committee of the American Bar Association Tax Section, serving as Chair of the Defined Contribution Plans Subcommittee. He also has been appointed to the IRS TE/GE Gulf States Council and is a frequent speaker on regulatory developments, fiduciary responsibilities, and retirement readiness.

Most importantly, he stays active with his family. His wife, Laura, is the founder of REbeL, Inc., a not-for-profit organization. His three young boys are mixed up in far too many sports, and they enjoy traveling, watching college football, running with Dad, and rooting for the Huskers.
Matt Eickman
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