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Reasons to be cheerful

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'Even in these trying times there are positives to be found – we should be using these challenges as an opportunity for change. '

Perhaps an odd title for this piece, given I am about to run through a list of challenges – but please bear with me! 

What’s happened recently in the life of an administrator? To name a few things, we’ve had; 
Enforced home working – leading to remoteness from colleagues and a potential lack of support/access to training (speaking to someone via video link is not the same as being there in person) 

Rapid changes to procedures – handling of post/certificates, adoption of electronic signature, online ID and death verification, etc. 
Continued service demand – unlike other industries, our clients’ expectations have not changed and work volumes have largely remained unchanged (which is definitely something to be grateful for!) 
We also have a number of projects rumbling on or about to kick-off, which will require administrator input. 
GMP Reconciliation/Rectification – teams up and down the country are busy working through HMRC’s final data cuts to establish schemes’ final reconciliation positions and will then be launching projects to calculate correct benefits and required adjustments. 
The latest Lloyds ruling on GMP equalisation – (sorry, I could not get away without mentioning this!). Administrators will need to provide this data … for inclusion in 31 December 2020 company accounting numbers (particularly where auditors and actuaries are keen). 
Also in the news are discussions around adoption of the simpler annual benefit statement (including form and content plus the concept of a “statement season”), data standards for the pensions dashboards, TPR’s strategic review covering the next 15 years and the disappearance of RPI within the next decade (R.I.P.!). 
All doom and gloom but, to borrow a phrase from Ian Drury, there are reasons to be cheerful. Even in these trying times there are positives to be found – we should be using these challenges as an opportunity for change. 
Third Party Administration firms are investing in technology and finding innovative solutions around employee engagement 
Trustees are sympathetic to our position and grateful our service provision has been largely uninterrupted 
Members have valued our continued service – we’re making a difference when times are hard for a lot of people 
I often use an opportunity like this to complain about the image of administration within the pensions industry; it sounds very clinical and formulaic, but it’s so much more than that. We are professionals and bring so much more than pressing buttons to run calculations or pay pensioners. Thankfully, I think our latest troubles have done a lot to improve our image. 
Let’s use the drive and enthusiasm of a lot of administrators to learn, develop and grow to show how good we are. We’re in the perfect position to add value to the member experience along the way.  Maybe these forced shifts in focus will be the kick start needed to raise member engagement with their pension provision. 
I think it’s unreasonable to expect members to be regularly engaging with their pension provider, but just having everyone registered to use an online service – with frequent reminders being sent by administrators – is a start.  In an ideal world this would be via an app, but web access is better than nothing. 
There have always been loads of good reasons to get people online – improved data quality, faster service provision and introduction of efficiencies chief among them – and I hope with administrators now focusing on these areas, trustees will jump on board and make appropriate investment. 
PASA is always eager to hear from members and the wider industry on areas of focus and ideas of how administration can improve. Our Board Directors are available to discuss areas of concern and how we may be able to develop thinking and Guidance. If you want to become more involved, we welcome new committee and working group members with all levels of experience to provide quality, supportive content which is useful to administrators, pensions managers and Trustees. 2020 will be a year many people will want to forget. My preference is to take what’s been thrown at us and use it as the basis for positive change. 

Chris Tagg, PASA Board Director.