Elizabeth Heffernan

Elizabeth L. Heffernan

Vice President Product Management at Fidelity Investments

Location:
200 Seaport Blvd, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
HQ Phone:
(617) 563-7000

General Information

Education

Bachelor of Arts degree  - English , University of Iowa

Affiliations

Benefits Coordinator  - First Colonial Bankshares

Position, Employee Benefits and Compensation Areas  - Northwestern University

Recent News  

Elizabeth Heffernan
Elizabeth Heffernan Vice President Product Management for Personal and Workplace Investing (PWI) Fidelity Investments Elizabeth Heffernan is vice president, Product Management for Personal and Workplace Investing (PWI), a unit of Fidelity Investments. In her current role she is responsible for developing and driving the Guaranteed Income and Investment product strategy for the Defined Contribution business within PWI. Previously Ms. Heffernan held a variety of roles in sales, marketing and client relationship management including responsibility for communications and education programs for Fidelitys Tax Exempt client base. She joined Fidelity in 1995. Prior to joining Fidelity, Ms. Heffernan worked in employee benefits for Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and First Colonial Bankshares in Chicago, IL. Ms. Heffernan received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Iowa in 1988. She currently holds her Series 6, 7, 63 and 24 registrations.

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Elizabeth Heffernan, Vice President, Product Management for Personal and
Workplace Investing (PWI), a unit of Fidelity Investments

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Speaking at the SVIA's 2014 Spring Seminar, Elizabeth Heffernan, a vice president in the Fidelity Employer Services Center, said plans that set the automatic participant contribution rate at 3 percent of salary have average participation rates of 85.8 percent.
Those that set the rate at 5 percent have average participation rates of 90.3 percent. Even at an automatic 6 percent deferral rate, 88.7 percent of eligible employees participate. "People are more committed at those higher savings rates," Heffernan observed. "Our default path is much too low," Heffernan said. "We need to get more plan sponsors comfortable with auto enrollment at 6 percent, at 7 percent, of salary." Beyond boosting automatic deferral rates, Heffernan said plan sponsors could take several other measures to help employees achieve better results from their defined contribution plans, including adopting a policy of automatically boosting deferral rates on an annual basis. While 77.1 percent of Fidelity plans give participants the option to increase their deferral rates annually, only 12 percent increase them automatically. In addition, Heffernan said, plan sponsors could boost plan participation by automatically enrolling not just new employees but also existing employees who aren't in the plan, a process known as reenrollment. "That's an area where we have a huge opportunity to do better as an industry," she said. Some sponsors, Heffernan conceded, have embraced reenrollment not just to boost participation rates but also to automatically steer participants into more diversified investment portfolios. About 15 percent of participants in Fidelity-run plans have 100 percent of their assets in either stocks-generally considered the riskiest asset class available-or in the most conservative investment option, such as a stable value or money market fund. "There are not many situations where that is appropriate," she said. Finally, Heffernan said, plan sponsors could help plan participants by offering products or services that assist them in converting retirement savings to income once they stop working. While most sponsors seem to have little appetite for offering guaranteed-income products, she said, they have shown interest in programs that would allow participants to take regular withdrawals from their accounts, and in guidance programs designed to help participants better understand their retirement-income options.

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