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Robert Trigaux

How does your retirement fund rank? Carlton Fields law firm gets regional gold star for 401k



Mike_Alfred_Photo.jpgWake up and good morning. A smart, young San Diego company called BrightScope has come up with a way to rate the quality and pitfalls of the 401ks offered by individual companies. It's a clever and important insight into a company offering that until now has been hard to assess and impossible to compare. It's an good tool: for employees to know whether their retirement vehicle is a great one or just so so; for companies themselves to at last see how their 401ks rate versus their peers, and for job hunters who want more insight into the quality of benefits a prospective employer offers. And BrightScope CEO Mike Alfred (see photo), all of 29, says this is just the beginning.

In Tampa Bay, for instance, BrightScope's ranked the top ten 401k offerings based on a range of criteria that includes the quality of investment choices, the company's "generosity" (whether it matches 401k contributions, for example), the participation rate of employees and even the average account size of the 401ks. The 401ks are rated on a 0-100 scale. Here are the top ten regionally, based on 401ks having at least a total of $50 million in assets:


1.  Tampa law firm Carlton Fields. Rating: 81.
2.  Sarasota insurance group FCCI Services. Rating: 79.
3.  Tampa power company and Tampa Electric parent TECO Energy. Rating: 73.
4.  Tampa glass container maker Anchor Glass Container Corp. Rating: 72.
5.  Sunrise (south of Sarasota) hospital recruiter Sheridan Healthcorp. Rating 72.
6.  Tampa engineering firm PBS&J. Rating: 72.
7.  St. Petersburg Times parent Times Publishing Company. Rating: 71.
8.  St. Petersburg investment firm Raymond James Financial. Rating: 71.
9.  Lakeland medical services provider Watson Clinic LLP. Rating: 70.
10. Clearwater computer parts distributor Tech Data Corp. Rating: 65.

A few caveats. The ratings are derived from Department of Labor data supplied by the individual corporations to the government, so there is a time delay in the information. For example, the top ten ranked above are based on 2008 DOL data, and I can tell you that at least some of these firms have tightened or curtailed their 401k contributions in more recent years (courtesy of the recession). Still, this is a rare glimpse of a qualitative review of 401ks, one that will get better as BrightScope builds its database each year and one that will get more timely, CEO Alfred says, as demand grows for current information.

Alfred, whose company looks at all big company 401ks, says a company 401k has to be rated in the mid 80s to be considered "super elite." He rattles off some big corporation names like Lockheed Martin, Pfizer, Exxon Mobil, United Airlines, Charles Schwab and (yikes) even BP as megafirms with strongly credentialed 401ks. But, he notes, Carlton Fields' rating of 81 is very commendable. And it's not just big companies with the highest rated retirement funds. Some small doctor practices, he says, are very generous to employees and can rate very high as well.

Go to the BrightScope web site and you can search for individual companies. Wonder how some of the other bigger Tampa bay companies fared with their 401k offerings? St. Petersburg electronics manufacturer Jabil Circuit, for example, rated a 61 -- average for its peer group, though the average balance of participants is below average. Tampa's Syniverse, which provides infrastructure services for cell phone companies, rated an impressive 77 (BrightScope did not include in its top ten but it should be there!)

Search for yourself. There's insight and commentary on each business.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist 



[Last modified: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 7:41am]


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