Message from the Acting Chief Executive Officer
Welcome to the January edition of our quarterly newsletter. As this is the first newsletter since my appointment as the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Fund and Acting Secretary to the Pension Board, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about my vision for this year.
2019 represents a new chapter for me in public service as I step out of retirement and assume the position of Acting CEO of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. I am grateful to the Pension Board for entrusting me with this daunting responsibility.
Today the Fund is in a strong funded position. Our Fund is recognized as an integral part of the package of pay and benefits that determines the competitiveness and attractiveness of organizations as employers in the labor market. To this end, we are happy to welcome another organization to our family – CTBTO. It is our wish that the Fund will remain attractive well in the future by being well-managed and meeting the specific needs of international civil servants.
For the past five months, we have met the target of processing 75 per cent of initial benefits within 15 business days of receiving the required documents. We have implemented important client services initiatives, including a new call center and toll-free numbers in many countries.
The message from the Pension Board and General Assembly is clear – continue building on this foundation and provide participants and retirees with consistent, accessible, high-quality service. This is indeed my first priority. I will work closely with the staff of the Fund and the Pension Board to ensure that all requests from the General Assembly are appropriately followed up. I intend to strengthen relationships with all stakeholders to ensure that their concerns are addressed. I will seek new ways to improve our services, while seeking efficiencies.
I am excited to begin this journey with you as we work together to maintain a solid pension fund and build an even stronger organization. I realize that some amount of apprehension is inevitable with any change in leadership. I want you to know that my style is to work in a transparent manner and to build consensus.
I believe we are equipped to find creative and thoughtful ways of addressing some of the challenges we face. I welcome the opportunity to work with you as we take on those challenges. For me, I believe that thoughtful listening followed by careful planning is the foundation of good leadership. Therefore, I would like to hear from you – your ideas, concerns and vision for the UNJSPF.
Thank you again for your support as we strive to serve your pension needs and expectations.
Message from the Representative of the Secretary-General (RSG) for investment of UNJSPF assets
2018 turned out to be a challenging year in global financial markets. Investment returns in global equity markets were around minus 8.7%; the worst performance in any year since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Investment returns during December 2018 were the worst for that month in any year since 1931.
Despite these challenges, coupled with increasing market volatility, the market value of the assets of the Fund remained above the ‘Actuarial Assets Value’ of US$60.4 billion used by our Consulting Actuary in their most recent report to determine that the Fund’s financial condition is sound. It is important for the Fund’s stakeholders, including our 205,000 current and future beneficiaries, to note that estimations of the Fund’s financial well-being are made by external experts using very conservative assumptions which take into account expectations for a fair amount of volatility in the market value of the Fund’s assets.
Underlining this volatility as an enduring feature of global financial markets, the market value of the Fund’s assets has already bounced back to over US$63 billion in the first month of 2019.
Preliminary numbers indicate that the Office of Investment Management achieved its stated goal of meeting or exceeding the returns of the Policy Benchmark during 2018; the final audited numbers, of course, will not be available for several months as our third-party Master Record Keeper meticulously collects all relevant information and calculates various performance metrics as per industry standards.
We also continue to exceed our Long-Term Objective of 3.5% real (net of inflation) in US dollar terms over 10 and 15-year periods. As I have previously stated at various stakeholder forums -- including the Pension Board and the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly – our goal is to fully discharge all our obligations to current and future beneficiaries. Pension payments are made over decades, and short-term fluctuations in investment returns do not have a material impact so long as the Long-Term Objective is being met.
Financial markets are likely to be volatile over the near-term as they adjust to a reversal of quantitative easing which has been going on for the past ten years, with no precedents to help us gauge how that adjustment may come about. At the same time, our fully funded status gives us a certain amount of financial cushion to withstand a period of low investment returns. I am confident that the Office of Investment Management will be able to deal with whatever challenges the markets may present, with your support and encouragement.
Decision taken by the General Assembly on the 2018 report of the Pension Board
The United Nations General Assembly completed its review of the agenda item on pension and adopted resolution 73/274 on 22 December 2018. The General Assembly endorsed most of the recommendations of the Pension Board presented in the report of its 65th session (A/73/9). Both documents are available on the UNJSPF website (www.unjspf.org) and on the United Nations Official Document System (documents.un.org).
According to the governance structure of the Fund, the General Assembly is responsible, among other matters, for reviewing and monitoring the financial status of the Fund, for endorsing recommended amendments to Fund Regulations and the Pension Adjustment System, for approving the Fund’s budget, and deciding on the membership in the Fund.
In December 2018, the General Assembly approved the admission of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to membership in the Fund, with effect from 1 January 2019. The General Assembly concurred with the new agreement on the transfer of pension rights of participants in the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund and officials of the African Development Bank. The General Assembly approved most of the suggested amendments to the Regulations of the Fund, on article 4 (Administration of the Fund), article 30 (Deferred retirement benefit), article 32 (Deferment of payment or choice of benefit), and article 46 (Forfeiture of benefits and limitation on claims); and deferred the discussion of proposed amendments to articles 6 and 48. As always, the latest version of the Regulations, Rules and Pension Adjustment System of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (1 January 2019) can be found on the UNJSPF website.
The General Assembly also approved an exception to article 15 (b) of the regulations of the Fund, to effect a change from a biennial to annual budget, on a trial basis, in line with the United Nations. This means that the Pension Board on July 2019 will consider the Fund’s budget proposal for the year 2020.
The General Assembly this year decided to change from the long-term practice of taking note of the valuation result in relation to the required contribution rate (a deficit of 0.05 per cent of Pensionable Remuneration as at 31 December 2017). Instead, they took note of the valuation results as a percentage of projected assets (a deficit of 0.12 per cent as at 31 December 2017), which is a different metric, and in this regard stressed the importance of continuing to achieve the necessary 3.5 per cent annual real rate of return on a long-term basis for the future solvency of the Fund.
The General Assembly noted the current dual role of the Chief Executive Officer and Secretary of the Pension Board, and decided to replace the existing post by two distinct and independent positions, namely, “Pension Benefits Administrator” and “Secretary of the Pension Board”, by no later than January 2020. This matter will be discussed by the Pension Board at its next session.
The Assembly noted that the Pension Board established a working group to consider the issues of participation, rotation and equitable representation on the Board and other governance matters raised by the OIOS governance audit. The General Assembly provided additional details for the terms of reference of the working group. The working group will present its proposals to the Pension Board in July.
Membership of CTBTO in the UNJSPF
1. By its Resolution 73/274 of 22 December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly approved the admission of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization to membership in the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, with effect from 1 January 2019, in accordance with Article 3 of the UNJSPF Regulations.
2. Under Article 3 of the Fund’s Regulations, membership in the Fund is open to the specialized agencies referred to in Article 57, paragraph 2 of the Charter of the United Nations and to any other international, intergovernmental organization that participates in the common system of salaries, allowances and other conditions of service of the United Nations and the specialized agencies.
3. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground. The CTBT was negotiated in Geneva between 1994 and 1996. One hundred and eighty-four countries have signed the Treaty, of which 167 have also ratified it, including three of the nuclear weapon States: France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. But 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force. Of these, eight are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the USA. India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the CTBT.
4. Since the Treaty is not yet in force, the organization is called the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). It was founded in 1996 and is based in Vienna. It is headed by the Executive Secretary, Mr. Lassina Zerbo from Burkina Faso. The CTBTO’s main tasks are the promotion of the Treaty and the build-up of the verification regime so that it is operational when the Treaty enters into force. The CTBTO currently employs nearly 300 staff members. Prior to its admission as the Fund’s 24th member organization, the retirement plan of the organization was administered as a Provident Fund.
5. Various sections within the Fund are working on the administrative and technical processes for onboarding staff members of CTBTO as participants in the Fund, which should be completed by mid-2019.
New Transfer Agreement – UNJSPF and African Development Bank
1. Following approval by the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board at its 65th session in accordance with Article 13 of the Fund’s Regulations, and the concurrence of the United Nations General Assembly by its Resolution 73/274 of 22 December 2018, the Fund entered into an agreement with the African Development Bank (AfDB) on the transfer of pension rights. The transfer agreement aims to secure the continuity of pension rights of participants in the UNJSPF and officials of the AfDB.
2. The AfDB is a multilateral development bank that provides assistance to its regional member countries with a view to achieving their development goals.
3. Under the transfer agreement, UNJSPF participants may, under specific conditions, elect to be covered by the provisions of the agreement and to transfer their accrued pension rights from the UNJSPF to the AfDB Staff Retirement Plan (SRP). The agreement also allows staff of AfDB, under certain conditions, to transfer their rights from the SRP to the UNJSPF. The transfer agreement entered into force on 1 January 2019. However, there is a transitional period whereby staff members who entered the service of either organization within one year preceding the effective date of the agreement and who have not received any payments from the UNJSPF or the SRP, may elect to transfer their rights under the agreement.
Each person receiving a periodic benefit(s) from the Fund must complete, sign and return to the Fund an original Certificate of Entitlement (CE) form every year. The Fund uses the CE to verify the continuing eligibility of retirees and beneficiaries for the benefit they are receiving. Prompt completion of the form ensures there is no disruption of your benefit payments. The CE form may be returned to either our New York or Geneva offices.
UPDATE ON THE CURRENTLY ONGOING 2018 CE EXERCISE:
The time line for the 2018 CE Exercise is as follows: The Fund sent out the first 2018 CE mailing at the very end of May 2018. At the very end of September 2018, a second mailing of CE forms was dispatched to all those retirees and beneficiaries from whom the Fund had not received their signed 2018 CE form by then. All retirees and beneficiaries concerned should have returned to the Fund their duly dated and signed 2018 CE forms by 31 December 2018 at the latest. As per standard UNJSPF procedures, benefit payments may be suspended for cases where no acceptable signature document reached the Fund within the time frame allowed. The Fund will carry out one last follow up with its SPC organizations and AFICS offices worldwide, asking for their kind assistance in locating retirees and beneficiaries from whom the 2018 CE is still outstanding. This exercise will take place during the months of February and March 2019. All benefits for which the Fund has not received the duly completed original 2018 CE form or another acceptable original signature document by end of March 2019, will be suspended effective with the May 2019 payroll. In that case, such benefit would be reinstated retroactively upon receipt by the Fund of the necessary and duly completed documentation. You can track whether the Fund has received your barcoded returned 2018 CE form by accessing your Member Self-Service (MSS) https://www.unjspf.org/memberself-service/ where information about the status of receipt by the Fund of your 2018 CE form is provided under the PROOF DOCUMENTS tab.
Up to date and detailed information and guidance about the annual CE Exercise and what to do in case of non-receipt of the 2018 CE form is available on the Fund’s website under the dedicated Certificate of Entitlement (CE) webpage which you can access here: https://www.unjspf.org/certificate-of-entitlement/.
A HEADS UP FOR THE UPCOMING 2019 CE EXERCISE:
The CEs for the 2019 CE Exercise are expected to be dispatched by the Fund in late May 2019. There would be no action required from those included in the 2019 CE Exercise until after May 2019, when the Fund will request them to sign and return their 2019 CE in the normal manner.
Update on Benefits Processing
The Fund’s benefits processing rate has surpassed the benchmark in every month since August 2018. As of 31 December 2018, the Fund processed 79.4% of the new separations cases within 15 business days and 86.1% within 30 days. It is the fifth consecutive month that the Fund surpassed its target of 75% of new separations processed within 15 business days.
Meanwhile, the Fund continues to collaborate very closely with member organizations to ensure the timely and correct submission of the core separation documents and also resolve those with missing or incomplete documentation (which are classified as nonactionable).
Follow-ups are done either in the form of regular reports/listings to the member organizations or direct contact with the separated staff, whenever feasible.
As part of its efforts in informing and educating not only the separating staff but also the Pension focal points in HR and Finance of the separation process and the Fund’s specific requirements for processing benefits, particularly for offices facing downsizing or closure, the Fund proactively seeks to provide pension briefings, pre-retirement seminars, pension clinics and workshops, either by VTC or in person.
Finally, the Fund continues with its data clean-up efforts in IPAS to identify and action items where there are issues of incomplete records or redundancies. At the same time, the Fund continues to introduce IPAS enhancements and fixes and further developing BI reports to better monitor and control its case inventory.
2018 Outreach Activities
The Fund’s New York office carried out Outreach activities for 22 offices in its Member organizations. Some outreach activities consisted of a 2 to 3-hour pension briefing session, other activities included multiple briefing sessions (to all staff and to soon separating staff), focused pension workshops and training sessions for Pension Focal points in HR and Finance.
In March, Christine Höfer Cartner, Chief of the Client Services and Records Management & Distribution Section in New York, visited the United Nation’s Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for a week to support the mission’s closing efforts with in depth pension briefings, workshops, individual consultations with staff members and training sessions for pension focal points in HR and Finance. A general briefing session was also held for the staff of all UN Agencies, Funds and Programs located in Liberia. The UNMIL visit was organized in close collaboration with the UN and a member of their FPD Pension team.
In May, the Fund participated in the OHRM organized New York Pre-Retirement Seminar for UN staff. Christine also provided in depth briefing sessions in English and French via VTC for the National and International staff of the following UN Peacekeeping missions, Agencies and Funds and Programs: UNHCR DC office (January), WHO/PAHO Brazil (February), UNFPA (April), ICC New York (April), FISCA (April), UNICEF South Asia (May), UNICEF One HR LAC (May), UN/DM (June), CEPAL (June), UNICEF Haiti (June), UN/DSS (June), UNICEF Afghanistan (July), UN NAS Peacekeeping (August), UN DSU/UNSU (October) and UNAMID (November).
The Fund also provided briefing sessions to representatives of AFICS Thailand and Japan.
In total these Outreach activities will have reached over 2,000 Fund participants, beneficiaries and Pension Focal points in the Fund’s member organizations serviced by the NY office.
The Fund’s Geneva office carried out 13 Outreach activities for its Member organizations.
Some outreach activities consisted of a 2 to 3-hour pension briefing session, other activities included multiple briefing sessions (to all staff and to soon separating staff), focused pension workshops and training sessions for Pension Focal points in HR and Finance.
In March, Aliamane Bacar Said, Chief of Finance, Client Services and Records Management Section in Geneva visited WFP Rome with Mr. Alan Blythe, Chief of Geneva Office for a townhall presentation to WFP Staff with the participation of the HR Director and Deputy Director General. In the same month the Geneva CS team held a joint meeting training with UNOG HR Team. The team presented twice to the Newcomers inducting training at UNOG and made presentations in the Pre-retirement Seminar of Geneva-Based Agencies such as ILO and WIPO. In April, the Fund provided training in IPAS to the SPC Secretaries who participated in the Annual SPC Secretaries meeting in Geneva. In addition, the Fund provided training to SPC Secretaries in Hamburg (ITLOS), Vienna (IAEA) and Rome (FAO/ IFAD). In October, the Fund participated in the UNOG Pre-retirement Seminar and held one-on-one meetings throughout the week of the seminar. The Fund presented in the IAEA/ UNOG Pre-retirement Seminar in Vienna and the FAO/WFP/IFAD Pre-Retirement Seminar in November. The Fund made a presentation in Cairo by video through the coordination of FICSA.
In total these Outreach activities will have reached over 1,300 Fund participants, beneficiaries and Pension Focal points in the Fund’s member organizations serviced by the GVA office.
Emergency Fund (EF) activated for retirees/beneficiaries living in the Kerala region in India, affected by the monsoon flooding in August 2018
In light of the devastation resulting from the monsoon flooding which affected the Kerala region in India in August 2018, the Fund decided to make exceptional special Emergency Fund payments available to all retirees and other beneficiaries who lived in that area and experienced particular hardship due to the damage and/or loss of property. As for similar special EF payments in the context of a natural disaster, the Fund allowed for a fast-track application process to grant a one-time special Emergency Fund payment of USD500.00 to all retirees and beneficiaries affected by the flooding. This one-time fixed payment would not preclude a retiree or beneficiary from submitting an additional request for assistance, should expenses be in excess of the fixed special payment.
Procedures to apply for this special EF payment as well as general information about the Emergency Fund and related conditions have been posted on the Fund’s website at: https://www.unjspf.org/documents/emergency-fund/
Communication Technology Features
The Fund is focusing on new initiatives to establish excellence in client services. In 2018 the Fund started launching toll-free and local numbers to directly connect callers to our call center free of international charges. As of December 2018, 14 new countries – for a total of 42 – have been established and can now directly contact the call center of the Fund. Also, as recently announced during the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities”, the Fund’s website achieved full compliance with the international requirements for web content accessibility.
New Developments in Member Self Service (MSS) – The 2018 annual Statements of Benefits (formerly referred to as ‘Tax Statement’) are now available in MSS
To improve the service to its clients, the Fund continues to add new features to its online Member Self Service (MSS) https://www.unjspf.org/member-self-service/. Most recently, the Fund introduced a new functionality to make the annual Statement of Benefits available in MSS.
Retirees and beneficiaries who have registered for MSS and who had requested in the past to receive the annual Statement of Benefits automatically every year, can now access their 2018 Statement of Benefits inside their MSS under the DOCUMENTS tab.
The annual Statement of Benefits is useful for tax purposes as it provides the total amount for benefits paid during the calendar year (USA and Canada) or the 12 months tax period concerned (Europe). Statements issued by the Fund for tax purposes reflect the full actual pension benefits, i.e. before any ASHI deductions.
These statements are provided initially upon request (either by calling the Fund at the numbers provided on the Fund’s website or by submitting such request via the online Contact Form: https://www.unjspf.org/contact-us/). It should be noted that once you have made an initial request for an annual Statement of Benefits, you will receive a statement in each subsequent year on an automatic basis (no further requests are needed). The statements are normally transmitted within the first six weeks of each New Year.
Once they have made their initial request and the first statement has been issued, most retirees and beneficiaries can now also access their annual Statement of Benefit, inside their UNJSPF Member Self Service (MSS) under the DOCUMENTS tab.
The Fund strongly encourages all participants, retirees and beneficiaries to register for Member Self Service (MSS). All you need is your name, date of birth and the nine-digit Unique ID (UID) number.
Inside MSS you can access various useful functionalities and update your email address any time inside your account in MSS. You are strongly encouraged to provide a personal email address, so that the Fund can contact you by email even after you have separated from the service of your organization and your UN email address is no longer active.
How should you contact the Fund?
There are three ways to contact the Pension Fund today.
The first, if you work in New York or Geneva or if you are visiting, you could have a face-to-face meeting with one of our Client Service specialists. For details, addresses and opening hours go the Contact Us page on the UNJSPF.org website (https://www.unjspf.org/contact-us/).
The second way to contact us is to call the Fund through its Offices in New York or Geneva. Please call the office responsible for your case, if you know which one it is. For details, telephone numbers and service hours go the Contact Us page on the UNJSPF.org website (https://www.unjspf.org/contact-us/). At this time, the Fund has made available a total of 42 toll-free and local numbers; the complete list of these numbers is available on the Fund’s website at the following link: https://www.unjspf.org/toll-free-numbers/.
The most efficient way to contact the Fund is in writing through the Fund’s e-mail form on its website. To ensure most efficient and speediest handling of your query by the Fund, please do not address your queries to an individual staff member in the UNJSPF, but always submit them through the UNJSPF online Contact Form which you can reach at the following link: https://www.unjspf.org/contact-us/. Please submit your queries providing all required details, including your UID (which is your life long nine-digit UNJSPF reference number) and the contact reason. Only this means of contact via the online Contact Form will ensure proper routing, tracking and timely action on the Fund’s side. Thank you for your kind cooperation.
By using this online method, your inquiry will be identified by topic, tracked and directly routed to the correct UNJSPF office responsible for your case, either in New York or Geneva. An immediate automated response will be sent to you in reply, tailored to the specific topic for which you contacted the Fund, to provide you with an initial response and some helpful information while you await a detailed reply from the Fund addressing your specific issue.
If you do not see such first level automated response within a few minutes after submission of your query, please check your junk mail for such response form the UNJSPF. In the meantime, your query will be queued for in depth review and personalized response by a Pension Fund expert who will provide you with a reply. Queries are responded to in the chronological order they are received. The Fund aims to respond within 15 business days, but some queries, like Two-Track estimates may take longer, as they are very labor intensive.
All urgent queries relating to death (reporting of the death of a retiree or a beneficiary) or interruption of a regular monthly benefit payment, can be reported to the Fund through the Contact Form on the website or you can write to two special email boxes. They are provided on the website on the page URGENT ASSISTANCE: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. These queries will be handled as absolute priorities and the Fund should contact you within 3 to max. 5 business days.