You may recall that we wrote to you earlier this year to let you know that we were transitioning between member administration service providers - that is, from Mercer to Australian Administration Services Pty Ltd (commonly referred to as Link).
We highlighted in that letter that we expected there would be some short-term impacts on member services arising from the need to pause some of our administration activities to create a stable data platform to be transferred between Mercer and Link. Our expectation was that a return to business- as-usual service levels would be relatively prompt once the final data had been transferred to, and uploaded by, Link.
In practice, the transition onto the Link platform has presented a major strategic challenge for the operation of the Retirement Benefits Fund during 2018, and has not gone as well as we had anticipated. The full transition from Mercer-based operations and systems to the Link administration platform, as well as embedding RBF processes and services into Link's operational and business systems (including online delivery channels), has taken us and Link a lot longer than planned.
In addition to the anticipated transitional impacts on service delivery, we have experienced a range of unanticipated impacts. Unfortunately, a range of technical and system issues have arisen that have resulted in some of the tools and systems developed by Link having limited functionality, and in some other cases, resulted in extended delivery timeframes.
In light of these developments, to continue to meet members' needs, we have developed manual 'work-arounds' with Link to manage the impact of these disruptions. Those processes are, naturally, slower and less efficient than system-based arrangements, and require additional levels of peer review and cross checking to maintain the integrity of benefits to members.
This has meant that for the relatively small share of our overall member-base that have been seeking to access entitlements (such as setting up their retirement pensions) during our longer-than-planned transition period, we have not been able to complete these transactions within business-as-usual timeframes. This is highly regrettable and we are very grateful for the patience and understanding our members have demonstrated as we work as quickly as we can to deliver outcomes for our members.
We have also implemented a case-management approach with Link to provide a means of escalating member transactions that are, for one reason or another, urgent in the individual circumstances of our members. If there are specific circumstances that apply to a transaction you need to undertake with us during the balance of this calendar year, that we are not already aware of and managing, please make contact with the RBF Enquiry Line on 1800 622 631 and make us aware of those circumstances.
While we can use non-system based processes to manage member transactions on a case-by-case basis, it is not possible to apply the same arrangements to the production of the Annual Member Benefit Statements, given that we need to produce over 15,000 of them. We flagged on our website in September 2018, that we have not been able to produce the Annual Member Statements within our usual timeframe (ordinarily September/October), and we wanted to let you know about that specifically, by way of this letter.
While we have been able to generate around 10,000 Statements for release during November, we are not yet in the position of being able to generate Statements for every one of our members. We are working with Link to produce and issue the Annual Member Benefit Statements for all remaining members in the next few months, and certainly as quickly as practicable.
Importantly, the delay in the production of the Annual Member Benefit Statement is not a barrier to you undertaking your retirement planning, as we have several ways in which you can obtain estimates of your entitlements (noting that the Annual Statements detail your benefit at 30 June each year) through our other services. These include:
- contacting the RBF Enquiry Line which will enable you to obtain a current balance estimate;
- registering for our MemberAccess online, which will provide you with on-line access to our Member Benefit Tool to obtain a current balance estimate at any time of the day or night, without the need to contact us; and
- making an appointment with one of our Super Consultants for a member interview (in Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie).
While there are multiple options available to you to obtain balance estimates, we do recognise the importance of our Annual Member Benefit Statements to our members, and are working with Link to produce these as quickly as we can.
In closing, the transition from Mercer to Link has been a very significant challenge for us during 2018, and it is regrettable that it has taken us much longer than planned to deliver all of the system functionality required to administer the scheme, Members that have needed to transact with us have shown a great deal of understanding and acceptance of our circumstances which the RBF staff and I are very grateful for. We do not take our members' support for granted, and genuinely appreciate our members' patience and have worked to manage member impacts to direct priorities and resources where needs are most pressing.
Director - Office of the Superannuation Commission