U.S. Public Pensions: Mission Possible
One of my favorite memories from childhood is curling up on the couch with my dad to watch re-runs of “Mission: Impossible.” From its pulsating theme to the tape-recorded message that outlined the team’s latest assignment, it was an action-packed hour of espionage and daring rescues that always culminated in Peter Graves and his fellow agents prevailing over would-be dictators to fight another day.
As I started working within the U.S. public pension space, I couldn’t help but think back to those “Mission: Impossible” episodes and see some parallels. Strip away the exotic locales and elaborate disguises and you have a U.S. public pension system: a specialized government agency designed to support its crack team. Not of spies, but dedicated public service workers and retirees of all kinds. No shadow governments or underworld crime bosses here; economic uncertainty and the stock market are the villains these days.
Today’s U.S. public pensions are facing the perfect storm of the economic downturn, the Great Resignation, and a scarcity of available tech workers that have collectively strained public pension systems’ financial and staffing resources. As of this past June, public pension systems lost a median of 7.9%, due to inflation, high stock valuations, and a broad retreat from speculative investments, including cryptocurrencies.1 Declines in the stock and bond markets have forced pension systems to cut back on expenses and refrain from new hirings. Systems are also having difficulty finding suitable candidates to fill critical gaps on their teams due to so many workers dropping out of the workforce, especially in tech, where a recent poll of IT workers revealed that 72% were thinking of quitting their jobs in the next 12 months.2 This is significantly higher than the 55% rate of the overall U.S. workforce.3
Rather than getaway cars and the latest spy gadgetry, public pensions need to find new ways to implement staffing and software efficiencies to maintain and improve member services to accomplish strategic objectives.
Modern platforms allow organizations to build configurable systems with low code – even no code – with drag-and-drop interfaces. Software that can also perform in cloud-native architectures with loosely coupled services and communication mechanisms that enable rapid buildouts are effective and efficient methods for lean IT staff. System architecture that is separate from the business architecture, so that changes can be made without affecting the technical layer of the platform (and vice-versa) can quickly and seamlessly allow for new features and functionalities to be implemented. With tiered software platforms, upgrades can be accomplished as a service, without interrupting business as usual.
Continuous system enhancements that keep software platforms innovative, efficient, and scalable can alleviate staffing pressures on IT teams and drive down ownership costs. Ongoing enhancements can also mitigate the need for future upgrades, so pension funds can focus their teams on scaling the platform based on the ongoing needs of the business.
Human resource efficiencies
Public pension system hiring slowdowns as well as the lack of suitable candidates can strain existing IT resources. Subcontractors and a rotational system of system analysts can help divide workloads while keeping multiple staff members updated on different projects. Technology teams should implement central planning software at the start of system engagements to identify and circumvent potential issues before they become major project roadblocks.
Like most mid-60s television dramas, “Mission: Impossible” storylines were always resolved by the end of the episode, as the team saved the world from imminent destruction in 60 minutes or less. Today’s public pension system issues, a complex web of inflation and fallout from tightening global markets, will require systems to make the most of their current staffing and system resources. With cloud-native platform architecture, regular system enhancements, and a more efficient workforce at the ready, pension systems can do more with less to maintain service expectations, meet their bottom lines, and make modern system administration a mission possible!
To see how Vitech’s public pension solutions address the full spectrum of single and multi-employer public pension requirements for comprehensive and streamlined operations, click here.
1 “Market Rout Sends State and City Pension Funds to Worse Year Since 2009,” Wall Street Journal, August 2022
2 “Retaining tech employees in the era of The Great Resignation,” Talent LMS/Workable Survey, September 2022