Annuities = DIY Pensions

I read this WSJ article about introducing annuity products to 401(k) plans yesterday. By investing in the annuities, the employee will get regular monthly payments after retirement. The article weighted some pros and cons of getting annuities through a 401(k) plan and it also talked about different kinds of annuities- immediate, deferred, fixed and variable.

In the pension consulting world, the most popular topic is to figure out the next big thing after pension. I believe the 401(k) annuity product is a beginning of many investment products to come when the investment companies/banks/insurance companies are exploring other investment vehicles which offer a similar financial security as pensions.

So what's the next big thing after pension for pension consultants? (Hint: definitely it's not pension.) Though some people believe the favorable attitude of employers and younger employees towards Defined Contribution is cyclical, I don't think there's a come back for pension as the notion of life-time employment with one company becomes a fairy-tale.

Is the pension consulting a sunset industry? It will soon be if the pension consulting doesn't re-invent itself.