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Outsourced CIO (OCIO) for defined contribution plan sponsors – making the right choice

Defined Contribution (DC) plans are becoming more crucial to the retirement welfare of workers. But with all the demands you and your staff face, your company may lack the time and resources to confidently keep up with investment oversight and changing regulatory requirements. As fiduciary specialists, we can help.

Plan sponsors: maintain control of what's important to you and delegate the rest

Outsourcing your DC plan allows you to retain control of strategic decisions about plan design, qualified default investment alternatives (QDIAs), asset class choices and active/passive styles. ERISA allows you to delegate functions such as investment manager selection, monitoring, and replacement, and recordkeeper management and oversight.

What types of functions can be delegated?

Investment Advisor

3(38) Fiduciary

Delegates authority for decisions on plan investments.

For example:

  • Target date series
  • Stand-alone menu
  • All investments
  • Asset allocation, e.g. custom target date funds or managed accounts

Independent Plan Advisor

3(21) Advisor

Reduces your fiduciary liability and can also help alleviate time-consuming and complex plan administrative duties.

  • Traditionally hired to assume certain reporting and disclosure responsibilities (Form 5500, etc.).
  • Can perform service provider selection, oversight, and other administrative duties as agreed.

Strategic Investment Advisor

3(21) Advisor

Makes decisions about managing the plan or its investments.

  • Advises on plan investments
  • Scope varies to fit plan needs
  • E.g., plan consultant

Selecting an OCIO provider for your defined contribution plan

Outsourcing for a DC plan can take many forms, from limited scope duties such as investment manager selection and monitoring to full plan management and administration. If you’ve decided that outsourcing certain fiduciary duties to a third party is the right decision for your plan, you must now select a provider. There are generally three types of firms providing outsourcing services.

How do you choose among them?


Consulting firms have made the foray into outsourcing, requiring a build-out of the infrastructure and expertise to offer new services and products.

Considerations for consultants:

  • Track record in the outsourcing business
  • Willingness to provide fiduciary services beyond advice
  • Strength in and experience with investment implementation
  • True focus on investment outsourcing
  • Dynamic, real-time management of client portfolio

Investment managers

Investment managers have experience making investment decisions and providing investment-related services, but their focus is not necessarily on an entire portfolio.

Considerations for investment managers:

  • Broad asset management experience
  • A strong manager research capability
  • Willingness to offer a customized approach
  • Ability to manage risk across asset classes
  • Measurement of goals that matter to me


Multi-managers seek to provide small-to-medium sized plans with greater diversification and access to money managers who are typically available only to large plans. Multi-managers generally focus on managing overall exposures within the entire portfolio rather than narrow security selection within specific asset classes.

Considerations for multi-managers:

  • Willingness to provide fiduciary services beyond manager selection oversight
  • Able to provide broad set of investment options
  • Moving from single to multi-managers may require more transition
  • Strength and experience in consulting

As DC plans have grown, plan sponsors are finding their fiduciary responsibilities have increased beyond in-house capabilities. Discover how Russell Investments can help with your OCIO needs.

Benefit from a new approach

Fiduciary duty, expertise, alignment and accountability: Benefit from a customized approach

Delegating some responsibilities to an independent third-party fiduciary like Russell Investments can potentially save you time so you can focus on what you do best and reduce your risk of fiduciary liability.

For more than 30 years, we have provided fiduciary management services to corporate retirement plans.

You can trust us to:

  1. Help you select and monitor investments suited to your participant demographics.
  2. Demand the best in recordkeeping vendors, finding the right service model, and ensuring fees are reasonable.
  3. Help you effectively educate and communicate with your participants.

As the top institutional investment outsourcing provider in the U.S.¹ and voted among the top firms for best manager due diligence practices for six straight years² we can help you simplify your day-to-day management of your defined contribution plan by providing you an added layer of fiduciary support, so that you can focus on your core business.

1 Russell Investments was ranked as the top global manager of institutional outsourced assets, out of 34 firms, in CIO Magazine" 2018 Outsourced-Chief Investment Officer Survey", based on the AUM from its fully discretionary clients.

2 In 2014, for a sixth year in a row, Russell Investments was voted among the top two for having the best manager due diligence practices by respondents in a 2014 FundFire survey of nearly 100 consultant relations professionals. Russell was rated as having the most rigorous due diligence process for evaluating a product's suitability in a client portfolio. In five of those years, we were ranked #1. FundFire discontinued their survey in 2015.

Holly Verdeyen

/ Head of Institutional
Defined Contribution


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