Penny-pinching gets easier for pensioners

A maturing pension plan and increasing workload meant the Labourers’ Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Ontario needed to improve communications with its 37,000 members. The LPF, which has more than $1 billion in assets, provides retirement benefits for employees in the construction industry, 12,000

of which are retired and receive a pension.

“”Part of the problem was we weren’t able to make changes as quickly as we wanted to and the programming was too structured,”” says Dave D’Agostini, plan administrator for the LPF. “”We were looking to develop a secure, scalable and automated pension administration system that was going to carry us into the future.””

The LPF hired Procase Consulting, a Woodbridge, Ont.-based solution provider, to upgrade its COBOL system and develop a Web site using portal technology. Because of the nature of the site, security was a top priority.

Procase Consulting implemented an Oracle 9i Database and 9i Application Server to create a pension administration system that would record, manage and analyze data online. The project, which kicked off in January 2003, was launched in July, though there’s still additional functionality to be added.

“”We have a maturing pension plan, which means we’re processing a lot more applications than we did, we’re taking in much higher levels of contributions, so in terms of workload everything is growing,”” says D’Agostini, “”but we’re able to maintain our current levels of staffing, possibly with a slight decrease six months to a year from now.””

One of the key benefits to members is the ability to securely view pension contributions online.

“”It’s hopefully going to allow members to view their pension contributions as often as they like so they can stay on top of it,”” he says. “”Eventually we’re going to add an online pension calculator.””

The LPF expects the technology will help administrators adapt to changes in pension plan regulations, as well as quickly generate reports and analyze data. IT staff will be better able to maintain the system and modify processes to account for changes in pension legislation — what used to be a painstaking task.

“”The streamlining of the plan operation is going to allow us to respond to pension applications probably within a much shorter time frame,”” says D’Agostini. “”(Members) will still be able to call in, but we suspect once they get used to getting their information online, it may reduce the quantity of calls that come in.””

There were some challenges along the way, though.

“”We needed to retain all of the historical rules, which was a bit of a challenge,”” he says. This meant getting all of the LPF’s legacy business rules into place and developing a rules engine. “”But once we did that a lot of other things fell into place,”” he adds.

For now, the LPF is using the technology for its pension administration system, but it’s looking at possibly creating some investment modules down the road.

“”The pension industry and benefit industry all have similar challenges where they need to move high-powered applications for the administrators — so super users if you will, which is what Dave has — and Web access as more people get online,”” says Eric Farquharson, vice-president of sales with Procase Consulting. “”We have quite a number of other clients who use the application server as well for similar reasons.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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