Vanguard has announced it will pursue the small 401(k) market, i.e. plans with less than $20 million in assets and fewer than 1,000 employees, with low-cost, bundled plans administered by Ascensus.

Industry observers say the move is timely, since many sponsors are looking for low-cost and exchange-traded funds. Charles Schwab, for instance, is readying ETF-based 401(k) plans to launch in 2012. ING Direct already offers ETFs and index funds on its ShareBuilder 401K platform.

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