Update for Trustees (COVID-19)

Home COVID-19 Trustees update

Administration update as of 26 June

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Administration update as of 12 June

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Administration update as of 29th May

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Administration update as of 1st May

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Administration update – 17/04/2020

Our latest Pension Administration update can be found by clicking here.

Premier Pensions
COVID-19 Administration update

Premier is happy to inform you that our Business Continuity Plans have worked seamlessly, within tight timeframes and under difficult circumstances. All our employees were enabled to work from home by the close of play on the 20th of March 2020 and so we now have had two weeks to review progress.

Inbound / Outbound post

Post has been coming in as normal via our scanning bureau. They do a lot of work for the NHS as well as government agencies and so we believe that they will be one of the last businesses to shut, if at all. The Government needs to be able to communicate with vulnerable people, send out COVID-19 test results, etc. and receive responses in return, which will require them to keep postal and scanning bureaus open for the foreseeable future. We are encouraging members to email us or send requests via the web and in turn we are attempting to communicate with members via email, wherever possible, rather than sending items by post. Personal information will always be sent encrypted, as per our standard process. This de-risks the process in the short-term and opens up digital communication opportunities for the Trustees in the longer term. We also have a couple of employees who are walking distance from the office, who deal with the minimal volumes of inbound and outbound post from the office. As we have less than half a dozen Premier staff operating in our offices, we have set them up to ensure appropriate social distancing.

Email / Web

We have placed reassuring messages for pensioners on our member web portal. We have also placed messages on our member web and on email footers to remind members that during this time, they are encouraged to email us or send requests via the web. Again, this de-risks the process and ensures that we receive and respond to requests promptly.

Telephone calls

The only key change in our processes is that we currently are not taking calls and rather forwarding them to voicemail. This is because of our concerns around privacy of calls in administrator’s homes, as well as background distractions (dogs, children and I even heard a rooster on a recent call I made to a call centre in the Philippines). We could insist that a core team of staff work from the office and take calls. However, Premier believes that given the availability of voicemail, email, member web and the post, this goes against the spirit of Government advice and puts our employees at risk.

We have reviewed call logs and messages received over the last two weeks. 90% of callers end the call and email us, while 10% leave a voicemail message. Voice messages are emailed as recordings to your administration team’s Inbox and listened to on the same day. Cases are then set up on our workflow as normal. Early analysis does not indicate any urgency and it is likely that these members are actually less concerned about speed and therefore are merely leaving a voicemail message to be picked up and processed as normal. We will continue to review the situation and can change our strategy depending on circumstances.

Pensioner payroll

We have a team of five looking after Payroll, while we only need one. As such, payroll and year-end appears to be progressing smoothly.

Team productivity

The administration team appear to be relishing working from home and productivity has increased. In addition, member enquiries have steadily reduced. As Premier has end-to-end workflow, checking systems, digital dashboards, online payment authorisations and STP switching, we can manage, review and audit work remotely in real-time by administrator, team or across the business. As a result, SLA’s have not been substantially impacted so far, if at all. We are working hard to keep up to date with all work across all of our clients, as we suspect that we may be processing large numbers of leavers shortly. Do let us know if you expect any spikes in work due to activity on the part of the Trustees or Sponsor.

Projects

Our Projects team is working as normal. None of our clients have cancelled any projects and in fact the team has been busy with outbound mailings reassuring members about the impact of COVID-19 on the Client Sponsor, stability of the scheme and their ability to retire. Naturally, the messaging may be less positive for DC members and we are in conversations with clients about this. Some clients are expecting the current market to be an opportunity for Buy-in or Buy-out, triggering data cleanse exercises. Others are using the time to re-focus on GMP Equalisation, especially the Data Audit and cleansing stages.

Sickness and absence

We are fortunate enough not to have any suspected COVID-19 cases on the pension administration team. There may have been some asymptomatic or mild cases. However, none were reported.

Premier impact

Premier has no debt, strong cashflows and a stable business model, We are not expecting any major impact on the business but we are constantly monitoring the position as we know some of our clients are suffering financially during this “lock down“ period. Naturally, we would appreciate all our clients approving and paying their bills promptly. The pension administration business continues to win new clients and so we are still hiring, we have no plans currently to make any of our employees redundant across the company.

Key risks

We note, that there are always risks and the Premier Board and our Administration Leadership team are actively reviewing these and ensuring that we have adequate contingencies in place.

  • Mental health concerns: Premier culture is focussed around our employees and as such, their health and wellbeing is first and foremost in our minds. As a result, we have established a Mental Health & Wellbeing group from volunteers across the business. Two out of the eight volunteers have already been trained as Mental Health First Aiders. The business has put together a series of groups, sub-groups and communication protocols to ensure consistent and constant communication across the business. This is a good balance between official communication, work planning and socialising. We have conducted an employee survey identifying potential issues and opportunities. Premier is also working with a great group of psychologists at The Positive Group who create programs and courses for schools, universities and businesses and who have given us access to an online course “Managing Your Mind”.
  • Total lockdown: This could impact inbound / outbound post, or prevent IT rectifications in case of failure. We do not believe that this is likely in the United Kingdom. Postal services, IT services, call centres and payment services all tend to be defined as key workers and we believe that these functions will always have the ability to travel for critical functions. In terms of postal services especially, the Government needs to send communication to all citizens, test results, at-risk citizens, etc. and receive responses in return. In terms of IT Systems, we are able to access our servers remotely or move these to back-up servers, if required.
  • Extension of the current level of lockdown for three to six months: This could mean that we will need to ensure that administrators have appropriate seating / office arrangements for their own health & safety. We have already begun analysing requirements. We are expecting the most vulnerable of our employees or those living with vulnerable household members to stay at home for at least three months and so have begun addressing this issue with these employees already. However, we are reviewing all staff at the same time.
  • Financial Education: We are noting concerns being raised by higher earners and DC members reaching retirement. As the dust settles, Trustees may wish to consider appropriate targeted financial education. Premier is able to offer a variety of financial education services and tools and may even be able to offer some financial education via video conference without any charge. Do let us know if this is of interest.
  • Transfers & Scams: The Pension Regulator and FCA are concerned about a spike In Transfer and Transfer-related scams. We are not seeing any increased activity as yet in this area. We already have stringent processes in relation to Transfers & Scams and we will continue to keep this under review.
  • AVC providers: We understand that some Third Party Administrators are having issues getting information from AVC providers at the current time. We have not experienced this as yet. However, we do not have any reason to believe that our experience will be any different. We will need to manage member expectations accordingly and will raise any issues with you as Trustees, when appropriate.
  • Changes in Schemes: We believe that the economic fallout will cause some Sponsors and Trustees to make changes in their benefit structures. We do not believe that this is likely to be immediate. Do keep us informed if this becomes a possibility as we will need to plan our resources accordingly and feed into your timelines.
  • Work spikes: Though work volumes have dropped, we are expecting a likely spike in Leavers, queries from bored home-bound members, or concerned members wanting information on retirements and / or transfers. There may be an increase in Deaths. However, we do not believe that this will be a substantial impact. We are using the current fall in volume to help the pension administration team work ahead and prepare for this spike.

Do speak to your Client Relationship Manager if you would like to discuss any of this, if you have any concerns about our strategy or believe that we have missed opportunities or risks. Stay safe and we do hope that you and your families are doing well.

Kind regards,

Girish Menezes
Head of Administration
Email: girish.menezes@premiercompanies.co.uk

Further guidance:

The Pension Regulator: https://bit.ly/3dRuZJP
The Pensions Ombudsman: https://bit.ly/2UCxKqJ
The Pensions Administration Standards Association: https://bit.ly/2waXp0p

Update – Tuesday 03 April

PASA Guidance on COVID-19 for Administrators – please follow this link to read the update.

 

Update – Monday 23 March

The recent Government announcements have triggered the next phase of our preparations to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Premier is well prepared to deal with the expected issues and has invested heavily for Business Continuity contingencies, with all of our consulting staff able to work remotely from home.

We have now begun a process to enable our Administration Services employees to work from home and expect this to be complete by the end of the week. Our decision is based on some key factors.

  • The wellbeing of all of our staff and their families particularly those vulnerable at-risk employees with underlying health conditions
  • Advice to avoid all non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel
  • People should start working from home where they possibly can

We will attempt to adhere to business-as-usual as far as possible.

  • Your current Administration team remains in place
  • We will continue to receive and scan in all incoming post
  • Our scanning and printing suppliers have contingency plans in place and we have alternative options in place for these services as well
  • We will prioritise Pensioner Payroll, Deaths, DC Transactions, Retirement Settlements and Forthcoming Retirements, in that order
  • Your Team Leader and Lead Administrator will continue to prioritise other work, as required
  • Our Accounts, Treasury, Payroll, Systems and Projects teams will be fully functional
  • We will continue to be available for meetings via conference/video call, send in papers and Stewardship Reports

We will appreciate your support in a number of areas though.

  • It is likely that all our Client meetings will be conducted via conference/video call, rather than in person
  • We will attempt to communicate with scheme members via email, wherever possible, rather than sending items by post
  • All telephone calls to the administration team will go to voice mail, with a message to email the team or contact us via our member website, to avoid any distracting background noise on member calls
  • Please do appreciate that productivity is bound to drop and this will have an impact on SLA’s
  • Consider whether a bulk communication to your members, especially pensioners, may alleviate some of their concerns.

Update – Tuesday 17 March

A NOTE TO ALL PENSIONS ADMINISTRATION SERVICES CLIENTS OF PREMIER FROM GIRISH MENEZES, HEAD OF PENSIONS ADMINISTRATION

The recent Government announcements have triggered the next phase of our preparations to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Premier is well prepared to deal with the expected issues and has invested heavily for Business Continuity contingencies. We have begun a process to enable our employees to work from home and expect this to be complete by the end of the week. Our decision is based on some key factors.

  • The wellbeing of all of our staff and their families particularly those vulnerable at-risk employees with underlying health conditions
  • Advice to avoid all non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel
  • People should start working from home where they possibly can

We will attempt to adhere to business-as-usual as far as possible.

  • You can continue to contact me as your Client Relationship Manager on XXXXXXX and via email at XXXXXXXX
  • In case of my absence you can speak to Girish Menezes on 07584 026 007 and via email at menezes@premiercompanies.co.uk
  • Your Lead Administrator will continue to be XXXXXX who can be contacted on XXXXXX and XXXXX
  • Your Team Leader will continue to be XXXXXX who can be contacted on XXXXX and XXXXXXX
  • We will continue to receive and scan in all incoming post
  • Our scanning and printing suppliers have contingency plans in place and we have alternative options in place for these services as well
  • We will prioritise Pensioner Payroll, Deaths, DC Transactions, Retirement Settlements and Forthcoming Retirements, in that order
  • Your Team Leader and Lead Administrator will continue to prioritise other work, as required
  • Our Accounts, Treasury, Payroll, Systems and Projects teams will be fully functional
  • We will continue to be available for meetings via conference/video call, send in papers and Stewardship Reports

We will appreciate your support in a number of areas though.

  • All Client meetings will be conducted via conference/video call, rather than in person
  • We will attempt to communicate with members via email, wherever possible, rather than sending items by post
  • All telephone calls will go to voice mail, with a message to email the team or contact us via our member website, to avoid any distracting background noise on member calls
  • Please do appreciate that productivity is bound to drop and this will have an impact on SLA’s
  • Consider whether a bulk communication to your members, especially pensioners, may alleviate some of their concerns.
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