Pension Management, Reporting, and Administration at its core is really about three things. These three things, in sync or out of sync can make or break the job to be done, the TCO (total cost of ownership), and the member experience.
The three things that need to be in sync:
- the capability of your software
- the capability of your team
Let’s discuss each, and why your current processes are not “working” and how to fix it. I will inject right now that there is no silver bullet, no overnight solution. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Pension plans have been around for decades, and plan to be around for hundreds of years more.
Let’s plan for the future.
Plant the tree now so you can have some welcome comfort in the near and distant future.
From what I’ve seen in most TPA (third party administrators) shops and union local offices, the data is disparate (1).
Multiple legacy systems, not integrated, siloed, and ‘dirty’ in the light of what modern data platforms require and desire. Many times, different versions are maintained and not shared, not by want or need, but by systems and process design.
Synchronization is tough, sometimes appears impossible. There is a need and a want, but maybe not a way.
A lot of data is still retained in boxes, on sheets of paper, or scanned copies of sheets of paper. Mail continues to be the dominant form of communication.
At a recent trade show in Denver, Colorado, we attended several communication sessions and many discussions surrounding how to get members to read more mail, best practices for sending mail, and so on…
It seemed like the US Department of Labour was not going to move away from mail being the only “legal” way communication could exist when sending out plan changes, etc.
The Cleanup Is Onerous
One person, one team, or one department cannot do this alone unless you have a small member base.
Even then the maintenance of the data needs to be ongoing. Cleanup is not an event; it is an ongoing activity. The longer you let data get stale, the “dirtier” it gets.
The real solution is to place the responsibility on the member. Not the administrative team.
How would one go about doing that? It’s simple, easy, and straightforward.
Make data maintenance a requirement of the member.
Whether the member is a member of the union, the health plan, the pension plan – it should be and is the members' responsibility to maintain address info, spousal, beneficiary, contact info (email, mobile, phone, etc.).
Better software allows for this. Modern software forces this.
The Capability of Your Software
Event-Driven Software Communications
In pension nearly everything happens when an event occurs. Capture the data at the time of the event, and for an event, make sure the member participates, confirms the event occurred and was accurate.
By making software user-friendly and easy to confirm an event occurred requires two-way communication.
Two-way communication between the union local and the member. (Sometimes the member’s spouse, or tech-savvy child or grandchild, depending on who is the most capable, willing, or able to front the communication loop). Someone in the household needs to be in the loop and participate.
Communication, if made easy, make everyone’s job easier.
A simple text, a form on a web page, and an address form that actually uses modern address autofill (from the country’s postal service API) can make everyone’s life so much better.
People will want to use the tech solution, instead of calling to make changes, or filling out a paper form and mailing things in.
Transcription issues should be a thing of the past. Period.
Going to work is an event. Getting married is an event. Having a child is an event. Retiring is an event. All of these should be recorded and communicated with the member and the local.
There is no reason why this cannot happen with today’s mobile technology and smartphones.
Even most flip phones can handle text messages. And, nearly everyone has a computer with an internet connection these days.
The Capability of Your Team
Change is tough. Technology change can be even tougher.
Support, train, prepare your team for the future.
There is a concept floating around the world that “software is eating the world” (2).
Help your team acquire the skills they need before they get a load of software dumped into their lap.
Have them in the discussions leading up to the technology change. Engage them throughout the process.
And please, train them.
Your people are the key to making this shift happen. Software by itself is not a solution. Software with caring capable people is.
A member services rep needs to have a lot of training and support behind them to tell a member they must log into the portal (download the app, send a text, etc.) to make the event occur, or to get the information they need, as you no longer can give this information over the phone.
Train your people to handle all frustrations, to be ready for it. Support and love are the answer here.
Serve the members in a better way, a more modern way.
By forcing the members to take responsibility and participate in the events that occur your data will be cleaner, the plan will be stronger, and the costs of data management will decrease over time.
The labour savings at the TPA and union local office will go down. With better, cleaner data your costs of experts and consultants will go down over time.
Fewer expenses, in the long run, means more money stays in the plan.
More money in the plan means better retirement payments to all.
One Last Note
Please don’t think your future data solution will be solved by a company peddling software that was created in the ’90s, or the 2000’s, or even the 2010’s.
If the software vendor of choice has not rewritten their software in the last 3-5 years, they just put lipstick on the pig and may be selling you a bundle of dog dirt 💩.
Tell your board to give me a call, I’ll be frank, open, and honest.
Randy 1-902-830-2403 – anytime.
(1) Disparate data are any data that are essentially not alike or are distinctly different in kind, quality, or character. They are unequal and cannot be readily integrated to meet the business information demand. They are low quality, defective, discordant, ambiguous, heterogeneous data.
(2) Software is eating the world. That's what engineer/investor Marc Andreessen famously wrote nine years ago in a ground-breaking article in the Wall Street Journal. Andreessen was merely pointing out that global business was entering a new phase.