In this Pensions Update
- 20% penalty waiver on late PBGF assessment payments is ending on December 31, 2020
- Meet Jennifer Rook, FSRA’s Head, Pension Operations & Regulatory Effectiveness
- IPPs and DPs can now elect to be exempted from the PBA
- Our final Missing Members Guidance is now posted
- Revised CIA standards for determining pension plan commuted values
- Reminder on our Guidance: Approach to Requirements After Certain Annuity Purchases for Defined Benefit Plans
- Uploading your most current plan text to the Pension Services Portal
- Heads up: A new DC wind-up process is in the works
Meet Jennifer Rook, FSRA's Head, Pension Operations & Regulatory Effectiveness
Q. How did your role at the Ministry of Finance prepare you for your role at FSRA?
A. At the Ministry of Finance, I was primarily responsible for leading a team in developing policy for and implementing changes to the legislative framework for Ontario registered pension plans. I have a clear understanding of the reasons behind the legislative framework which is incredibly helpful given FSRA’s focus on principles-based regulation.
I continue to have strong relationships within government, a thorough understanding of government processes and an appreciation for the issues the government may have an interest in. I hope these factors will assist the Pensions team at FSRA in navigating its initial years.
You had to hit the ground running when you joined FSRA in April, how did covid-19 impact Pension Operations?
A. Covid-19 has been an incredible challenge for the Pension Operations and Regulatory Effectiveness team. Prior to the pandemic, Pension Operations relied almost entirely on paper files. Just before I joined FSRA, the entire operations team was issued laptops, packed up what was possible and began working entirely from home. In a few short days, the team had to transform almost all its processes and practices.
Add to that the need to continue processing the thousands of inquiries and transactions that come in and balancing work with unexpected family demands. It has been a busy year for everyone.
Despite the challenges, there have been silver linings. Joey Shiner, Shawn Roche and David Pahn diligently attended the office throughout, doing whatever was necessary to allow the rest of the team to continue addressing inquiries and reviewing and processing various transactions.
Moving from paper files to electronic records
The team, and Joey, Sharon Polischuk, Kaithlyn Cuartero and Hashim Iqbal in particular, have worked throughout the summer and fall to pack up files to prepare them to be transformed from paper files to a digital library!
And we are currently updating the Pension Services Portal to allow us to receive various applications electronically, cut down our review times and deliver more timely responses and approvals to plan administrators and plan beneficiaries.
Q. How did the pandemic accelerate the adoption of digital technologies for your team?
A. Leveraging technology was already a priority. The pandemic brought that priority into even clearer focus moving it beyond the large projects. In almost everything we do there is likely a digital solution we could leverage to improve our regulation of pension plans.
Q. Improving regulatory efficiencies and effectiveness is one of FSRA’s priorities. Can you share some of the initiatives that will improve service levels and streamline processes?
A. We are reviewing our processes more broadly. This will take some time, but it is a matter of looking at what we do, and why we do what we do.
Coming soon - Paying your PBGF Assessments electronically
A great example of this is our work on the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund Assessment process. We are working to find a solution to allow pension plans to remit payment electronically, as opposed to by cheque. This will be a more modern and facilitative way for plan administrators to remit their payments. Streamlining of processes allows us to refocus our time and effort on inquiries and reviewing and approving transactions which will improve our services levels.
Q. How are you developing your team to meet the challenges of the ever-changing regulatory landscape?
A. The Pension Operations and Regulatory Effectiveness team reviews several complex applications and transactions. As the pension landscape shifts, those transactions are likely to become more complex. On top of that, we receive an incredibly high volume of transactions and inquiries annually.
Over the last few months, we have begun shifting some of our work to multi-disciplinary teams that bring together pension expertise from across all of Pensions and develops specific expertise. This allows everyone to engage in a discussion on challenging issues or more complex situations, continue to evolve as a team as a principles-based and outcomes-focused regulator and to hear the different perspectives. I think being part of the discussion where a decision is made is also important for overall engagement, alignment to the vision and our ability to deliver on our mandate.