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February 2000

Large Bank Retirement Services: A Comparative Practices Study (WP 2000-2)

This publication is part of:

Collection: Economics Working Papers Archive


This report analyzes information examiners gathered in the second half of 1998 from large national banks that offer retirement services. The information provides insight on these banks' strategic plans for retirement services, the banks' assessment of the risks associated with retirement services, their risk management processes, and how banks operate their 401(k) retirement services.

The OCC initiated the retirement services project in order to increase the agency's knowledge of current practices in the retirement services industry and the role national banks play in this market. Because of dramatic changes in the industry following the introduction of 401(k) plans, the OCC also identified retirement services as an area of potential risk to national banks. The OCC designed the project to help identify areas of potential risk and gauge banks' current risk-management processes.

Overall, the large national banks in our study seem to be aware of and managing the many risks that can arise in retirement services. They have risk management programs in place and actual losses because of problems in retirement services have been small. Results also suggest that the banks are mindful of new challenges that might arise because of rapid changes in the retirement services industry. While most large banks in the study consider their reputation, strategic, compliance, and transaction risks to be modest and stable, roughly a fourth believe their strategic, compliance, pricing, and transactions risks are increasing. The banks suggest that risks are increasing because of greater demands for service, increasing expectations for technological capabilities, and greater competition.

The project also answered the following questions:

  • How is the retirement services industry changing?
  • Who are the major industry players that compete with national banks?
  • What are large national banks doing to meet the challenges of the changing industry?


Douglas Robertson, Jim Cambruzzi, Kevin Jacques, Peter Nigro, Bill Pate, Hugh Rich, and Art Steele