Annual Pension Board meeting opens, held virtually for the first time due to COVID-19

The 67th United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board commenced its annual meeting today, which will last from 16 July to 24 July. Important topics on the agenda will include governance matters, the actuarial valuation of the Fund, the Fund’s 2021 administrative budget, and the selection of a Deputy Chief Executive of Pension Administration and a Secretary to the Pension Board.

As usual, the Board started with the selection of its new Chair, electing Ms. Martha Helena Lopez, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources in the Department of Management, Strategy, Policy and Compliance at the United Nations, by acclamation. Ms. Lopez thanked the outgoing Chair, Ambassador Owade from Kenya, for his remarkable work and the Fund’s staff for having made tremendous efforts in keeping the Fund operational through this difficult period of COVID-19. “It is the first time that the Pension Board is being held virtually and it has as full an agenda as usual,” she said.

Ms. Rosemarie McClean, UNJSPF Chief Executive of Pension Administration, then introduced the 2021-2023 Pension Administration Strategy. “The Fund should deliver outstanding services to its clients globally,” she said, outlining her vision. “We want to simplify our client experience, to modernize our pension services and to develop a strong, global partnership.” This strategy is built on integrity, professionalism and respect for diversity, which are core UN values, as well as innovation, partnership, and service, Ms. McClean underlined.

Turning to the 2021 budget, Ms. McClean stressed that the Fund requires crucial IT resources and missing skills to operationalize its modernization. IT investment will be critical to move to paperless interactions and more automation of manual processes, which will, in turn, free resources to improve services to clients. There is a lack of data analytics and no communication strategy to serve clients and inform stakeholders. The Fund needs a renewed focus on the client experience and to improve trust between the fund and its stakeholders, she added.

In 2019-2020, the performance of the Fund has been remarkable despite COVID-19, said Ms. McClean, highlighting the Fund’s staff dedication. “More than 90% of initial separation cases are processed within 15 days,” she stressed.

Moving to the investment side, Mr. Pedro Guazo, Acting Representative of the Secretary-General for the investment of the assets of the UNJSPF, stressed that the last four months have been extremely challenging for the Office of Investment Management (OIM), with 100% of staff telecommuting since 16 March and an extremely volatile market and economic environment.

Although a long-term investment strategy was set in August 2019, “OIM had to adapt to a new reality,” Mr. Guazo said. “We are in a transition phase and our goals are to stabilize and strengthen the team, to adapt the investment portfolio to the new economic and market context and to strengthen the reporting and disclosure of relevant information by adopting cutting edge information sharing and communication.”

As of 30 June 2020, the market value of the assets is nearly USD 70 billion and as of today it is above USD 72 billion, which was the level of the end of December 2019. Despite the turbulent first months of 2020, “OIM has continued to meet or exceed its Long-Term Investment Objective of a 3.5% real return rate in USD over 10- and 15-year periods,” Mr. Guazo added.

The Pension Board is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The Pension Board has the ultimate responsibility for the administration of the Fund and it protects the best interests of participants and beneficiaries by setting strategic goals and policies, providing general oversight and monitoring.

The outcome of the Board meeting will be communicated soon after to the UNGA through a report (see 2019 report here). The UNGA will review it, taking into account the opinion of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. The UNGA will make final decisions on these matters with a resolution expected in December (see the 2019 resolution here).

 

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