New Feature: Form 5500 Data

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Each year pension plans are required to file an annual report documenting their financial condition, investments, and operations. This requirement is satisfied by filing the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report and any required attachments with the Department of Labor. While the Department of Labor makes the data contained in the Form 5500 filings “publicly available”, BrightScope understands that “publicly available” doesn’t always mean “accessible” or “understandable.” After speaking with numerous participants, advisors and consultants over the last 6 months, BrightScope has learned that the existing resources used to view Form 5500 data are at times cumbersome and difficult to use, particularly for participants. As a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to bring transparency to the 401k marketplace, BrightScope is proud to announce the release of Form 5500 Data directly on BrightScope.com.

There are several design elements/features that we would like to highlight:

  • Ease of Navigation. The primary need we addressed was helping people find 5500 data quickly and easily. Advisors have shared with us that when they come to BrightScope.com to look up a company’s BrightScope Rating they frequently open a new browser window to view the Form 5500 data for the same plan. In an effort to streamline the efforts of these advisors we have integrated the Form 5500 data into our primary site navigation bar. We have replaced the “Plan Data Vault” tab in the navigation bar with a “Form 5500 Data” tab:

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Plan sponsors and participants can still access the Plan Data Vault by clicking on the vault link in the top right-hand corner of the BrightScope Rating page:

plan-data-vault-highlight

  • Clean Layout and Design. There are many design elements of the Form 5500 Data pages that we believe will make the data easier to navigate and understand. First and foremost is the easy to read format. While some sites provide the 5500 data in the format of the actual Form 5500, we recognize that the design and layout of the form is primarily to make it easier for the data to be extracted into a database not to make it easy to understand.  We built a user-friendly layout and eliminated all of the “codes” that make the form difficult to interpret. The end result is a layout that is intuitive and easier to navigate yet still has all the data people need.  For example, if a participant wanted to review the benefits provided under the plan, their Form 5500 might look like this:

benefits-provided-form-5500

We have transformed these codes into a format that is easier to understand:

benefits-provided

The investments listed on Schedule D of the Form 5500 are also organized in a straightforward fashion:

investments

  • Collapsible Financial Information. Many advisors let us know that the financial information on the Form 5500 is typically spread over several pages making it difficult to find key information. BrightScope has laid the financials out in a format that allows for progressive disclosure. This design avoids overwhelming our casual users with the volume of the data provided, while simultaneously making it easier for our more experienced users to find the information they need. For example here is a sample Income and Expense Statement:

financials-collapsed

Clicking the “+” sign opens the section to reveal additional information:

financials-expanded

We hope that by making this data easier to understand and navigate we will help participants, advisors and plan sponsors search for and find the Form 5500 data they need. Looking to the future, we have begun building some advanced features that many advisors and consultants have expressed interest in, including a detailed search feature that enables sorting and filtering of Form 5500 data across major criteria. We will be building this advanced functionality over the next few months to help interested parties search and filter the data in every way that they would like. If you are interested in being a beta user for this new product please do not hesitate to contact us.

*Disclaimer:  The Form 5500 is not sufficient to do a BrightScope Rating calculation and the Form 5500 is just one of many data sources used to rate plans.  For further documentation about what data sources BrightScope uses to rate plans please visit the FAQ section.

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