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Source: The Washington Post / Getty(Black PR Wire) Retirement Clearinghouse, (RCH), an RLJ Company, Fidelity Investments, Vanguard, and Alight Solutions announced that they have collaborated to create a consortium of workplace retirement plan recordkeepers, Portability Services Network, LLC, to accelerate the nationwide adoption of auto portability to help America’s under-served and under-saved workers improve their retirement outcomes.

In announcing the consortium, Bob Johnson, who founded BET and the RLJ Companies said, “For many years, I have been focused on finding business solutions to addressing the significant wealth gap facing minorities, and I am delighted to see the leaders in the retirement services industry come together with my company, RCH,  to accelerate the nationwide adoption of auto portability as part of our vision for helping under-served and under-saved Americans achieve financial security. This is truly a historic moment for the industry, as well as our country and is the first step to reduce the wealth gap between Black and white households in this country.  I urge Black organizations, Black elected officials, and the Black community to contact their workplace benefits office and  401(k) record keeper companies to encourage them to fully adopt 401(k) auto portability.”

The need for auto portability has been driven by the lack of seamless plan-to-plan savings portability amid a highly mobile workforce.  Cashing out has traditionally been seen as an easier option than the current manual, often cumbersome and time-consuming process of transferring from plan-to-plan—and cash-out rates for job-changing minorities, low-income workers, and women are also higher than average.

Retirement Clearinghouse developed its auto portability solution in conjunction with the private and public sectors to reverse this trend. EBRI estimates that if auto portability was broadly adopted, over the course of a 40-year period an additional $1.5 trillion in savings would be preserved in the U.S. retirement system.[i] Auto portability will help:

  • 67 million Black and minority workers save $619 billion
  • 42 million women workers of all ethnicities save $365 billion

Approximately $92 billion in savings leaves the U.S. retirement system every year because Americans who switch jobs prematurely cash out their 401(k) savings accounts and pay taxes and penalties on those cash-outs, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).[ii] Workers with less than $5,000—the focus of the auto portability service—cash out at the time of their job change at much higher rates than all job-changing workers.

“As a leader in the workplace benefits industry, Fidelity is committed to improving the private retirement system to benefit all American workers,” said Kevin Barry, President of the Workplace Investing Division at Fidelity Investments. “We are excited about the opportunity to work with RCH and other leaders in our industry to focus squarely on ‘connecting and protecting’ workers’ retirement savings, thereby improving retirement outcomes, particularly those for under-served and under-saved workers.”

“We were honored to be the first 401(k) plan recordkeeper to implement auto portability for our clients,” said Alison Borland, Executive Vice President of Wealth Solutions at Alight. “Two years later, industry awareness and the momentum behind this vital solution have grown significantly, and we look forward to working with our fellow industry leaders to reduce our country’s retirement-savings shortfall.”

As an industry, we have a responsibility to American workers to remove barriers to retirement preparedness and increase their chances for investment success,” said John James, Managing Director and Head of Vanguard Institutional Investor Group. “The formation of this consortium directly complements Vanguard’s ongoing efforts to simplify investing and drive positive participant outcomes.”

The consortium currently represents approximately 43.8 million workers across more than 48,000 employer-sponsored retirement plans, based on data published by Pensions & Investments. Its members have established an independent entity, Portability Services Network, LLC (PSN), which will utilize Retirement Clearinghouse’s auto portability solution to build a nationwide digital hub connecting workplace retirement plan recordkeepers and the plan sponsors they serve. PSN will act as a clearinghouse for automatically locating a participant’s active workplace retirement account in their current employer’s plan and transferring the same participant’s account from their prior employer’s plan into their active account.

In addition to Alight, Vanguard, and Fidelity, the Portability Services Network will be majority owned by RCH with Mr. Johnson as its chairman, and is designed to include up to three additional major recordkeepers as owners. PSN’s owners will govern the network as an industry utility designed with the goal of operating at the lowest cost to workers participating in auto portability. PSN is open to all recordkeepers to connect. The recordkeepers that own or participate in PSN will not receive any compensation for facilitating auto portability transactions from participants.