NEW YORK, April 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company announced today that it has teamed with Wilshire Associates Incorporated ("Wilshire®"), an independent, third-party adviser, to provide advanced support to help plan sponsors meet their fiduciary obligations in screening, selecting and monitoring investment options. These services are available as part of the company's new Retirement GatewaySM (Gateway) group variable annuity designed to fund retirement plans for the small- to mid-size market.
Wilshire has been offering investment analytics, research and advisory services to the large plan institutional market since 1972. Through its relationship with AXA Equitable, Wilshire now brings this experience to the small- and mid-size market with comprehensive manager due diligence, investment manager recommendations, investment policy guidance, and investment monitoring and reporting.
"One of the biggest concerns of business owners is meeting fiduciary obligations under ERISA, and research shows that plan sponsors in the smaller market are not fully aware of what is expected of them as a plan fiduciary," said Mark Scalercio, senior vice president and head of AXA Equitable's Employer Sponsored division. "Sponsor obligations are the same regardless of plan size, and Wilshire helps us bring large plan fiduciary services to smaller plans, giving owners the support to manage their obligations, protect themselves and their participants, and focus on running their businesses."
Wilshire offers two levels of support to Gateway clients providing sponsors with choice and flexibility. The 3(21) Series designed for those who wish to retain primary responsibility for investment selection. The 3(38) Series designed for those who prefer Wilshire to have discretion over investment selection decisions.
"We are excited that our relationship with AXA Equitable will allow us to efficiently offer smaller businesses the independent investment advisory solutions and services we have been providing to institutional plans for decades," said Jamie Ohl, president of Wilshire Funds Management. "With the Department of Labor poised to provide new plan fiduciary regulations later this year, now is the time for us to begin supporting a broader range of plan sponsors."
Scalercio added, "We believe sponsor and participant needs are the same, whatever the plan size or type. Some providers have offered 3(21) services for the smaller market for some time. But we're one of the first providers to offer 3(38) to this market, making this a unique piece of the Gateway platform."
The 3(21) option comes standard with the Gateway plan. With this service, Wilshire is responsible for selecting investment options for each asset category and recommends specific investment options for various model lineups. These model lineups provide plan sponsors choice and flexibility by allowing them to choose between pre-set menus or the option of creating a more customized lineup from a broader list of options. If sponsors follow Wilshire's guideline recommendations and meet ERISA's diversification requirements, Wilshire agrees to act as co-fiduciary as defined under section 3(21) of ERISA.
The 3(38) Series is an optional benefit, available at an additional cost. This service, which provides even greater relief from fiduciary responsibility, gives Wilshire the authority to select and de-select investment options for a sponsor's plan in accordance with its judgment of the performance of the investment managers. Under Section 3(38), Wilshire agrees, in writing, that it is the investment fiduciary for the plan with responsibility for investment selection and monitoring.
Retirement GatewaySM is a group variable annuity contract issued by AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (NY, NY) and co-distributed by affiliates AXA Advisors, LLC and AXA Distributors, LLC. AXA Equitable, AXA Advisors and AXA Distributors do not provide legal or tax advice.
Retirement GatewaySM is a service mark of AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company. Wilshire® is a registered service mark of Wilshire Associates Incorporated, Santa Monica, California. All other trade names, trademarks, and/or service marks are the property of their respective holders.
About Wilshire Associates
Wilshire Associates, a leading global, independent investment consulting and services firm, provides consulting services, investment analytics and customized investment solutions to plan sponsors, investment managers and financial intermediaries. The firm was founded in 1972, revolutionizing the industry by developing the application of investment analytics and research to investment management for the institutional marketplace. Based in Santa Monica, California, Wilshire provides services to clients in more than 20 countries representing approximately 600 organizations.
Wilshire Funds Management, the global investment management business unit of Wilshire Associates ("Wilshire®"), leverages Wilshire's institutional expertise to help financial institutions design and implement individual investor solutions.
About AXA Equitable
In business since 1859, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (NY, NY) is a leading financial protection company and one of the nation's premier providers of life insurance, annuity, and financial products and services. The company's products and services are distributed to individuals and business owners through its retail distribution channel, AXA Advisors, LLC (member FINRA, SIPC) and to the financial services market through its wholesale distribution channel, AXA Distributors, LLC.
AXA Equitable's Employer Sponsored division is dedicated to providing the retirement savings products and personalized financial education to meet the retirement needs of plan sponsors and participants in small- to mid-size businesses, as well as those who build and serve our communities – educators and staff in public schools, colleges, and universities; hospital and municipal workers; and non-profit employees.
AXA Equitable, a subsidiary of AXA Financial Inc., is part of the global AXA Group, a worldwide leader in financial protection strategies and wealth management. "AXA Group" refers to AXA, a French holding company for an international group of insurance and financial services companies together with its direct and indirect consolidated subsidiaries. For more information, visit www.axa-equitable.com.
GE 62307 (04/11)
SOURCE AXA Equitable