InBev Anheuser-Busch: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?
While nostalgia can be an effective way to market beer, in my opinion, it’s no way to manage a brewery’s 401(k) plan. At least not if it hearkens back to a time when it was routine for plan sponsors to load up a 401(k) plan with high-cost investment selections and expect participants to sort it out for themselves.
This is what I fear has happened when InBev Anheuser-Busch (A-B) proudly announced nine additions to its 401(k) plan investment current lineup of low-cost, passively managed index funds. Much to my disappointment, the additions represent a confusing mix of mostly active funds.
When I was assistant treasurer at A-B in the mid-80s, I was proud to help the company become one of the first in the nation to replace all active funds with index funds in both its 401(k) plan lineup and pension plan investments. Our early leadership has since become common practice, buttressed by the empirical evidence on how to advance retirement plan participants’ successful outcomes.
There is a glimmer of hope in the mix. Dimensional Fund Advisors appears to be among the firms A-B announced in its new “active management” lineup. While Dimensional offers a different strategy from traditional indexing – something we refer to as “evidence-based investing” – it’s not traditionally active either. Dimensional is itself a leading advocate of avoiding largely fruitless attempts to beat the market through stock-picking or market-timing.
Even with this positive exception, I feel the new lineup still represents an unfortunate shift, sacrificing better choices on the altar of more choices.
Maybe I’m being nostalgic, but the A-B I knew, knew better.