NEW YORK, April 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company announced today that it has teamed with Wilshire Associates Incorporated ("Wilshire®"), an independent, third-party adviser, to provide advanced support to help plan sponsors meet their fiduciary obligations in screening, selecting and monitoring investment options. These services are available as part of the company's new Retirement GatewaySM (Gateway) group variable annuity designed to fund retirement plans for the small- to mid-size market. Wilshire has been offering investment analytics, research and advisory services to the large plan institutional market since 1972. Through its relationship with AXA Equitable, Wilshire now brings this experience to the small- and mid-size market with comprehensive manager due diligence, investment manager recommendations, investment policy guidance, and investment monitoring and reporting. "One of the biggest concerns of business owners is meeting fiduciary obligations under ERISA, and research shows that plan sponsors in the smaller market are not fully aware of what is expected of them as a plan fiduciary," said Mark Scalercio, senior vice president and head of AXA Equitable's Employer Sponsored division. "Sponsor obligations are the same regardless of plan size, and Wilshire helps us bring large plan fiduciary services to smaller plans, giving owners the support to manage their obligations, protect themselves and their participants, and focus on running their businesses." Wilshire offers two levels of support to Gateway clients providing sponsors with choice and flexibility. The 3(21) Series designed for those who wish to retain primary responsibility for investment selection. The 3(38) Series designed for those who prefer Wilshire to have discretion over investment selection decisions. "We are excited that our relationship with AXA Equitable will allow us to efficiently offer smaller businesses the independent investment advisory solutions and services we have been providing to institutional plans for decades," said Jamie Ohl, president of Wilshire Funds Management. "With the Department of Labor poised to provide new plan fiduciary regulations later this year, now is the time for us to begin supporting a broader range of plan sponsors." Scalercio added, "We believe sponsor and participant needs are the same, whatever the plan size or type. Some providers have offered 3(21) services for the smaller market for some time. But we're one of the first providers to offer 3(38) to this market, making this a unique piece of the Gateway platform."