Agenda item

Fund & Employer Performance

The purpose of this report is to present the Fund’s performance for the three months to 30th June 2021 against its key performance indicators (KPI’s) in relation to the administration of pension benefits.


The Pensions Manager introduced this report to the Board and highlighted the following areas from within it.


Operationally, on the Member Services team there has been an increase in new monthly tasks over the previous 18 months from circa 1,800 to 2,200 tasks per month with the current outstanding cases totalling 4,841 (an increase of 58% since March 2020). The main volume of work is with member refunds, active member retirements and retirements from deferred status. Member estimate requests have increased by 35% over the same period. General enquiries also remain high in volume and a number of these identified as duplicate chasers.


As previously agreed by the Pensions Committee a managed phased recruitment process across pensions admin has been in operation since July 2020. During this time twenty-two officers have either been recruited new to post or have moved internally within APF. This process has been manged remotely by senior officers with training and support provided by the new officer training program.


A number of vacant posts remain across the service. (i) As part of the ongoing phased recruitment there are 4.2 fte posts to backfill. (ii) Recruitment of the Technical & Compliance Advisor remains outstanding following the recent advertising campaign resulted in no applications being received. (iii) Recruitment of Transformation Manager and Project Manager currently being reviewed by Mercer consultant.


During the previous 12 months admin resource has been focussed on managing all critical process as outlined by TPR directive. In addition, during the last 5 months significant time and key officer resource has been focussed on specific projects including (1) Year End data reconciliation & ABS delivery (2) Firefighters Pension Scheme Immediate Detriment cases (3) Clearance of pre 31st March leaver backlog cases prior to year end.


Referring to Appendix 1 (Fund Performance against SLA – KPI’s) he said that officers were aware that steps need to be made to address performance and workload.


He said that an agreement was in place with the service managers and staff to put in place two teams from October (i) Backlog Focus Team and (ii) Business As Usual Team. He added that these teams would look to be in place for six months, with a review of progress to take place after three months.


He stated that as much as possible they would try to encourage the use of the Member Self Service function as part of My Pension Online.


There has been a minor downturn in the Funds recorded common data errors across most membership categories, with an overall data score of 95.56% for the quarter ending June 2021 down from 95.64% from the previous quarter. Due to work being undertaken on the Interim Valuation this year, data cleansing continues as a key focus. This will continue throughout the next year prior to the Valuation for 2021/2022.


Helen Ball commented that it was important to find the balance between current work and the backlog and welcomed the plans that were being put in place to try and achieve this. She asked if officers knew particularly why there had been an increase in queries.


The Pension Manager replied that in the main it was probably due to a degree of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and people therefore wanting information about their pension. He added that it appears that a higher than usual volume of employees have decided to change their employment over the last 18 months.


The Member Services Manager added that staff were trying to progress enquiries as best they can and felt that the focussed approach over the next six months would help.


Helen Ball asked officers to consider whether the Board could have a role in raising awareness of the Member Self Service function to encourage its use.


David Yorath asked if there was likely to be an increase in outsourcing of work.


The Pensions Manager replied that there was no intention to outsource any further work and that this had only been done for two bulk areas of work e.g. Address Tracing and GMP rectification.


Pete Sloman asked how blended working might impact future work and training. He said that if possible it would be better for a number of staff to be back in the office to support each other and attempt to take some pressure off of the more experienced staff.


The Pensions Manager replied that the Member and Employer teams do rely on working together. He said that as part of the plan to clear the backlog of enquiries team members would be given a controlled number of cases to clear. He added that it was hoped that a sensible approach to blended working would be found.


The Service Director for Financial Control and Pensions acknowledged that there is a degree of pressure on the management team and said that across the service there is a large number of good staff. He added that the aim will be to keep things steady over the coming months as they await guidance on when staff can return to the office.


Pete Sloman stated that staff should be supported as much as possible.


The Chair asked if there was IT equipment available to staff who need it.


The Pensions Manager replied that equipment was being supplied but said that the Pensions Service was not within the first or second phase of the new laptop rollout.


The Service Director for Financial Control and Pensions said that it was likely that they would form part of the third phase but was unsure of when that would commence.


The Service Director for Commercial and Governance commented that Microsoft Teams was now available to all staff and that new laptops will be issued to all staff in time and that he expected significant progress to be made in the next Quarter. He added that he would enquire whether the rollout for the Pensions Service could be accelerated.


Helen Ball said that she would like the concerns of the Board regarding employee workload and IT equipment availability to be passed on as it was critical to enable service delivery.


David Yorath commented that he welcomed the issue of climate change being acknowledged within the report.


The Chair asked if there were any further comments regarding recruitment or the Firefighters Pension Scheme – Immediate Detriment cases.


The Pensions Manager replied that the recruitment process has been challenging during the pandemic and wished to thank both the Employer Services Manager and Member Services Manager for their work. He added that the retention of staff also remains an issue.


He said that historically there was very little movement within the Firefighters Pension Scheme, but there were now four separate schemes that were conflicting and difficult to understand. He added that there was no technical solution in place in terms of the Immediate Detriment cases with all work to calculate and provide member options being carried out by officers manually.


The Pension Board RESOLVED to note the Fund performance for the three months to 30th June 2021.

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