The small business-focused recordkeeper and third-party administrator grew both its participant headcount and assets in 2017.

The firm provides financial services for college, health care and retirement savings to more than 7 million Americans.

In the past 12 months, Ascensus acquired at least five retirement-focused providers and now services approximately 50,000 retirement plans, up from 47,000 in 2016.

Ascensus provides more than 4 million college savings plans, and in 2017, assets in its 529 plans surpassed $100bn, up from $84bn in 2016.

Last year, Ascensus nabbed David Musto from Empower Retirement to serve as president so that Bob Guillocheau, CEO, could focus on further growth and strategic initiatives, including additional acquisitions and growing it sHSA business (FA, 8/4).

Empower Retirement

Empower Retirement rolled out a hybrid qualified default investment alternative last year, called Dynamic Retirement Manager, that’s part target-date fund and part managed account.

The offering allows for more customization for participants nearing retirement through the managed account.

In 2017, the firm also added the Empower Health Savings Account to its recordkeeping platform to integrate an individual’s retirement savings with their long-term health care savings.

Finally, late last year, Empower launched a plan assistance tool called Plan Visualizer, that allows advisers and consultants to change various metrics and see the effect changes like altering auto-enrollment defaults can have on employees’ retirement prospects in real-time.

JPMorgan Asset Management

Although JPMorgan sold its large-market recordkeeping unit to Empower in 2014, it’s still making strides in the retirement space.

Morningstar upgraded JPMorgan’s SmartRetirement Target-Date suite to gold from silver because of its strong 2017 performance that’s consistent with prior years.

The firm also launched a dedicated retirement share class and reduced fees across its mutual fund complex, including its target-date funds.

On the educational front, JPMorgan kicked off a series of defined contribution podcasts; held two adviser summits attended by 300 advisers; produced 20 retirement thought leadership pieces on topics like assessing target-date funds’ fixed income allocations; and held quarterly webcasts where 150 advisers dialed in.

JPMorgan also kicked off a campaign called “Defend her future,” to promote its SmartRetirement Blend target-date series and help advisers with their target-date fund selection. The firm credits this campaign with 1,400 new engagements.


The full-service recordkeeper, insurer and mutual fund provider enhanced its digital engagement efforts with several upgrades and initiatives in 2017.

Early last year, the firm boosted its RetireSMART tool’s functionality to add assets outside defined contribution plans so participants can calculate their retirement income based on salary and different contribution levels.

The firm also launched a new adviser website called AdviserAdvantage+. The website hosts a slate of tools and articles, including a prospecting database that ad­visers and consultants can use to research plan spon­sors. The website also hosts practice management articles and videos, and a marketing tool called Yourvalueprop that advis­ers and consultants can use to sharpen their pitches and cre­ate marketing materials (FA, 8/25).

On the thought leadership front, Mass Mutual published several white papers on topics relevant to retirement, including retirement insecurity among women and African-Americans. The firm also encouraged plan sponsors to promote voluntary benefits, such as insurance, as a holistic approach to retirement becomes more important to plan sponsors.