2021 PIMCO US Defined Contribution Consulting Study

Seeking to help consultants, advisors and plan sponsors understand current views and trends within the DC marketplace.

Further Understanding Defined Contribution

In its 15th year, the PIMCO US Defined Contribution Consulting Study seeks to help consultants, advisors and plan sponsors understand the breadth of views and consulting services available within the defined contribution (DC) marketplace.

  • 47 Consulting and Advisory Firms

  • 33,000 Clients Served

  • DC Assets in Excess of $6.7 Trillion

The Report

Our 2021 study captures data, trends and opinions from 47 consulting and advisory firms who serve over 33,000 clients with aggregate DC assets in excess of $6.7 trillion.

All responses were collected from January 4, 2021 through February 26, 2021.

Consultants’ Top Strategic DC Priorities

Institutional Consultants state expanding their presence up-market is the top priority while aggregators prioritize investment solutions, new services and M&A.

Institutional Consultant (n=29)1 Aggregator (n=11)2

Merge or acquire other firm(s)

10% 45%

Expand presence up-market (>$250MM)

66% 36%

Expand custom investment solutions capability

41% 45%

Expand presence down-market (<$250MM)

34% 27%

Expand coverage to new Pooled Employer Plans

17% 18%

New service offering

10% 45%

Question to Consultants: What will your firm's top three strategic DC priorities be in 2021? Select up to 3.
1. Institutional Consultant – traditional large plan consultant firms.
2. Aggregator – Independent DC focused advisory firms with shared resources.

Top Client Priorities

Institutional Consultants state reviewing Target Date Funds (TDFs) and fees are top client priorities, and their "leading-edge" clients prioritize retirement income evaluations and setting up the retirement tier

Top 5 (n=28) Leading Edge (n=27)

Review TDFs

68% 4%

Evaluate investment fees


Evaluate administration fees


Evaluate retirement income

57% 41%

Review managed accounts

29% 7%

Improve participant retirement education

25% 7%

Set up a retirement income tier

11% 19%

Question to Consultants: What will your firm's top three strategic DC priorities be in 2021? Select up to 3.

Most Important Factors to Plan Sponsors

Consultants state keeping costs low and meeting participant retirement goals are the most plan important factors to plan sponsors.

Top 3 Rank 1

Keep costs low (plan and investments)

87% 41%

Meet participant retirement goals

64% 36%

Manage litigation risk

49% 10%

Attract/retain workforce talent

26% 10%

Ensure the plan meets the needs of both active employees and retirees

23% 3%

Question to Consultants: As plan sponsors consider their DC plan, which of the following factors are the most important? Rank the top 3 factors. (n=39).

Key Findings

Download PIMCO’s DC Consulting Study key findings report for the latest trends and supporting data.




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All investments contain risk and may lose value. Investors should consult their investment professional prior to making an investment decision.

Target Date Funds are designed to provide investors with a retirement solution tailored to the time when they expect to retire or plan to start withdrawing money (the "target date"). Target Date Funds will gradually shift their emphasis from more aggressive investments to more conservative ones based on their target dates. Target Date Funds invest in other funds and instruments based on a long-term asset allocation glide path developed by PIMCO, and performance is subject to underlying investment weightings, which will change over time. An investment in a Target Date Fund does not eliminate the need for an investor to determine whether a Fund is appropriate for his or her financial situation. An investment in a Fund is not guaranteed. Investors may experience losses, including losses near, at, or after the target date, and there is no guarantee that a Fund will provide adequate income at and through retirement.

The survey results contain the opinions of the respondents at the time of the survey and may not reflect current opinions or investment strategies. These results may or may not match the views of PIMCO and are not intended to be reflective of PIMCO's opinions on the market or any particular investment style or strategy.

PIMCO as a general matter provides services to qualified institutions, financial intermediaries and institutional investors. Individual investors should contact their own financial professional to determine the most appropriate investment options for their financial situation. This material contains the current opinions of the manager and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. ©2021, PIMCO