John Hancock has beat out Fidelity Investments and ING for bragging rights as defined contribution investment-only manager top dog, according to a study by Cogent Research.

According to the study, John Hancock’s clients reported having the most favorable impression of the firm, improving its rank from second place one year ago. Fidelity moved up to second from eighth, bumping ING down from first to third. The survey is based on a representative sample of over 1,500 DC plan sponsors across all plan sizes and industries.

Cogent measures favorable impression on an 11-point scale, where zero is “not at all favorable” and 10 is “extremely favorable.” Among the top 10 investment managers, the “top 3 box” (8, 9, or 10) favorability scores range from 67% for John Hancock to 45% for J.P. Morgan. While several firms appear in the top 10 again this year, five new firms have joined the list of top DCIO providers in terms of client favorability: Prudential, Eaton Vance, Janus, Lord Abbett, and J.P. Morgan.

“Favorable impression often goes hand-in-hand with satisfaction and loyalty, which means it is not a measure that can be taken for granted,” stated Linda York, Syndicated Research Director at Cogent Research. “

Firms need to continually cultivate their brand impressions with attention to aspects that truly differentiate their capabilities, such as plan sponsor service and support, competitive fees, and portfolio and risk management practices.”