Brokerage giant Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW) said Wednesday it will bring the advantages of exchange traded funds to 401(k) retirement plans.

Schwab Retirement Plan Services, a unit of California-based Schwab, has launched a full-service 401(k) program based on low-cost exchange-traded funds, according to a statement issued by the firm. Schwab’s 401(k) ETF effort comes after the 2012 launch of Schwab Index Advantage, which provides workers with low-cost index mutual funds and personalized advice.

A 401(k) plan using index exchange-traded funds can reduce investment expenses by more than 90 percent compared to a typical 401(k) plan that primarily uses actively managed mutual funds, and by more than 30 percent compared to a 401(k) plan that uses index mutual funds, said Steve Anderson, head of Schwab Retirement Plan Services, in the statement.

Schwab Retirement Plans Services is making 80 ETFs from 11 providers available in its new 401(k) ETF platform. In addition to Schwab ETFs, plan participants can choose from ETFs offered by ETF Securities, First Trust, Guggenheim Investments, Invesco PowerShares, iShares ETFs, PIMCO, State Street Global Advisors, Van Eck Global, Vanguard and United States Commodity Funds.

Schwab has pre-existing relationships with ETF Securities, Guggenheim, PowerShares, State Street and U.S. Commodity Funds, all of which offer ETFs on a commission-free basis through the Schwab OneSource trading platform. [Schwab Expands Commission-Free ETF Offerings]

“Using a patent-pending process, Schwab Index Advantage is the first 401(k) program that fully integrates exchange-traded funds as core investments within the plan, including commission-free intraday investing along with the ability to process partial share interests,” Anderson said.

“We believe a truly effective offering requires the ability to invest in and receive allocations of both full and partial shares of exchange-traded funds when the market is open, and that’s what we’ve built. Other 401(k) offerings that we’ve seen take a less comprehensive approach to including exchange-traded funds and also tend to serve smaller plans,” he added.

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