An Efficient Defined Contribution Investing Approach

31 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020 Last revised: 14 Feb 2021

Date Written: June 3, 2020


A plan sponsor fiduciary is required to provide participants an investment menu that is "diversified." The DOL states the fiduciary “must act prudently and must diversify the plan's investments to minimize the risk of large losses." This requirement is consistent with the Uniform Prudent Investor Act which defines a diversified portfolio in which “gains in one investment will cancel out the losses in another.” The solution has been for the financial services industry to utilize Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) to develop and make available diversified asset allocation strategies for participants to use to manage their plan assets. The all in one solution has been the target-date fund. The reality is that the one risk, large losses, that can be detrimental to the participant’s capital before and in retirement, have not been mitigated by the use of MPT. A risk that can wipe out 10-15 years of gains in 1 year. The objective of this paper is to illuminate this risk and offer a solution based on a new approach to MPT to develop diversified strategies that factor in the risk of a large loss. The solution is combined with an investment menu design that compliments the new MPT approach.

Keywords: Asset Allocation, quantitative, hedge, defined contribution, plan sponsor, fiduciary, modern portfolio theory, indexation

JEL Classification: COO, CIO, CO, GOO, Gil

Suggested Citation

Grennon, Terry, An Efficient Defined Contribution Investing Approach (June 3, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

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