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Resources for Communicating Defined Benefit Risk to Plan Sponsors

Background and Purpose

Defined benefit plans pose inherent risk for plan sponsors. One of the primary roles of pension actuaries is to measure this risk and communicate it to plan sponsors.  However, actuarial communication of this risk may not always be aligned with how plan sponsors manage and interpret risk in the broader context of their business.  As a result, the Retirement Section is interested in ways to enhance these communications and convey a greater understanding of risk for plan sponsors when managing their defined benefit plans.

To accomplish this, the Retirement Section is interested in identifying and summarizing relevant resources of effective methods for communicating defined benefit plan risk to plan sponsors. The result would be a useful reference for pension actuaries of communication resources and the basis for possible follow-up research by the Retirement Section to advance practice in this area.  

Research Objective

The Retirement Section is seeking researchers to:

  • Perform a search of relevant resources on effective methods for actuaries to communicate defined benefit risk to plan sponsors. The range of applicable resources to search is intended to be broad and would include industry publications, consulting firm articles, academic literature and other relevant publications.
  • Summarize the resources reviewed using a consistent format and provide a synthesis of the material.
  • Prepare an accessible and actionable executive summary for actuaries that present the best methods of communicating defined benefit risk to plan sponsors.
  • Identify any knowledge and information gaps in the available resources and potential topics that should be addressed for future resources.

As a secondary objective, researchers may also consider summarizing methods used in other financial disciplines to communicate risk, as applicable. Resources should include material related to US and Canadian single-employer, multiemployer and public plans. The identified resources may also include material from other countries, if applicable.

  • Upon completion of the work, the researchers will assist in disseminating it by authoring a Retirement Section newsletter article, participating in a podcast and presenting during a potential webinar and/or SOA meeting session.


To facilitate the evaluation of proposals, the following information should be submitted:

  1. Resumes of the researcher(s), including any graduate student(s) expected to participate, indicating how their background, education and experience bear on their qualifications to undertake the research. If more than one researcher is involved, a single individual should be designated as the lead researcher and primary contact. The person submitting the proposal must be authorized to speak on behalf of all the researchers as well as for the firm or institution on whose behalf the proposal is submitted.
  2. An outline of the approach to be used (e.g. literature search, model, etc.), emphasizing issues that require special consideration. Details should be given regarding the techniques to be used, collateral material to be consulted, and possible limitations of the analysis.
  3. A description of the expected deliverables and any supporting data, tools or other resources.
  4. Cost estimates for the research, including computer time, salaries, report preparation, material costs, etc. Such estimates can be in the form of hourly rates, but in such cases, time estimates should also be included. Any guarantees as to total cost should be given and will be considered in the evaluation of the proposal. While cost will be a factor in the evaluation of the proposal, it will not necessarily be the decisive factor.
  5. A schedule for completion of the research, identifying key dates or time frames for research completion and report submissions.  The Pension Section is interested in completing this project in a timely manner.  Suggestions in the proposal for ensuring timely deliver, such as fee adjustments, are encouraged.
  6. Other related factors that give evidence of a proposer's capabilities to perform in a superior fashion should be detailed.

Selection Process

The Retirement Section will appoint a Project Oversight Group (POG) to oversee the project.  The POG is responsible for recommending the proposal to be funded.  Input from other knowledgeable individuals also may be sought, but the POG will make the final recommendation, subject to SOA leadership approval. The SOA's Research Actuary will provide staff actuarial support.


Any questions regarding this RFP should be directed to Steven Siegel, SOA Research Actuary (phone: +1- 847-706-3578; email:

Notification of Intent To Submit Proposal

If you intend to submit a proposal, please e-mail written notification by April 15, 2018 to Barbara Scott.

Submission of Proposal

Please e-mail a copy of the proposal to Barbara Scott.

Proposals must be received no later than April 30, 2018. It is anticipated that all proposers will be informed of the status of their proposal by the end of May 2018.

Note: Proposals are considered confidential and proprietary.


The selection of a proposal is conditioned upon and not considered final until a Letter of Agreement is executed by both the Society of Actuaries and the researcher.

The Retirement Section reserves the right to not award a contract for this research. Reasons for not awarding a contract could include, but are not limited to, a lack of acceptable proposals or a finding that insufficient funds are available. The Retirement Section also reserves the right to redirect the project as is deemed advisable.

The Retirement Section plans to hold the copyright to the research and to publish the results with appropriate credit given to the researcher(s).

The Retirement Section may choose to seek public exposure or media attention for the research.  By submitting a proposal, you agree to cooperate with the Retirement Section in publicizing or promoting the research and responding to media requests.

The Retirement Section may also choose to market and promote the research to members, candidates and other interested parties.  You agree to perform promotional communication requested by the Retirement Section, which may include, but is not limited to, leading a webcast on the research, presenting the research at an SOA meeting, and/or writing an article on the research for an SOA newsletter.