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As we head into the 2019 valuation process, the focus will be shifting towards membership data, with Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) Funds aiming to provide good quality submissions to their Fund actuaries. To help our Funds get their data in as good shape as possible, we have released our LGPS Online Data Checker to all our LGPS Funds.
What is the LGPS Online Data Checker?
The LGPS Online Data Checker provides an online, secure area for LGPS Funds to carry out valuation data checks at whole Fund and individual employer level. You can upload your data in the standard “Universal Data Capture” format, to obtain a report of the results of the valuation checks carried out, identifying where any issues lie within your valuation data.
The LGPS data problem
After a number of high profile reports to the Pensions Regulator in respect of data in recent years, it’s clear that at least some of the LGPS is struggling with the demands placed on it from recent changes within the Scheme and the limited resources available.
"It is crucial that LGPS Funds have the right data. Clearly, members need to receive the benefits they are entitled to. From a participating employer’s perspective, the right data will lead to more accurate valuation assessments of assets and liabilities and ultimately, appropriate contribution rates being paid."
We actuaries are hardly known for being risk-takers. If there are any errors or uncertainty in valuation data, any estimates we make will be on the cautious side and will lead to higher liabilities and therefore higher contribution rates. So, better data leads to better valuation outcomes for employers.
Why is LGPS data so difficult?
- The LGPS is more complex and demanding to administer than ever. When the LGPS was a final salary scheme, the emphasis was on getting the pension right when it was calculated at retirement or leaving. Now the LGPS is a CARE scheme, it’s a different story – pension accounts need to be updated annually and they need to be right each year.
- Employers need to hold the correct information and provide it to Funds accurately and on time. This isn’t helped by the sheer number of employers now participating in the LGPS (due to the effects of academisation and outsourcing), all working with different payroll systems.
- The increase in workload has not generally been matched with an increase in resourcing for local pensions teams.
Clearly, continued employer engagement and training and focus on resourcing will be key. We also believe that technology has a part to play, particularly if it’s sensibly designed and specific to the LGPS. Within our LGPS team we have 150+ years’ combined experience in helping LGPS Funds navigate through the valuation process and our Data Checker is built upon that experience.
Why use the LGPS Online Data Checker?
- You can run checks on your data whenever you like, as often as you need, at no cost to you. You can pick up the checking of your data when you have the resource to do so. Time is saved at the triennial valuation as checks will have been carried out in other years which will reduce the number of queries to work through.
- You can concentrate on the most important data issues for valuation – the failures are ranked by importance/significance into levels 1, 2 and 3.
- You can identify who your “problem” employers are – it provides clear output which documents where employers are in relation to other employers in the Fund.
- You don’t have to keep reminding us that odd-looking data is correct. You can let us know via the system where particular failures are nothing to worry about – we call this feature Tell us Once
What should LGPS Funds do next?
Your normal Barnett Waddingham contact will be in touch to set up the Data Checker for your LGPS Fund and to arrange a demonstration of the system (if they haven’t already!). We fully recommend that you upload whole Fund data as at 31 March 2018 in order to see where you may need to concentrate any cleansing efforts over the next few months.
Once you are happy with the data at 31 March 2018, let us know and we’ll use the updated extract at 31 March 2018 as the base for checking the final submission of valuation data at 31 March 2019, so that we only have to check through one year of potential issues rather than three.
A final note. Our system concentrates on data required for valuations and actuarial matters. Our LGPS Benefits and Governance team can assist you with wider data and record keeping issues including data improvement planning and training and will be pleased to discuss this with you. For further details, please contact Ross Anderson on the details below.