Welcoming other organizations into the CAAT Plan has benefits for all stakeholders. The CAAT Plan Board of Trustees and the Sponsors’ Committee have assessed the benefits of accepting new employers inside and outside of Ontario's postsecondary education sector, and determined that this initiative is beneficial to the Plan and its members.
How growing Plan membership benefits existing members
In recent years, the Plan has been in discussion with various organizations, both inside and outside Ontario's public sector, interested in joining a Modern DB plan such as ours. The benefits to these organizations are evident—they would be joining an established and experienced jointly-sponsored pension plan. But what are the advantages to the CAAT Plan and its members?
As the Plan grows, existing CAAT Plan members continue to make contributions based on their earnings and accrue a secure lifetime pension with no impact to their entitlements and retirement options. In the long-term, as membership grows, all members can benefit from ongoing benefit security. The Plan can benefit from efficiencies and cost savings through any one of the following:
- The pooling of administration, investment, and infrastructure costs.
- Reduced risk and improvement in the timing and likelihood of contribution reductions.
- Improved ability to withstand more adverse economic conditions.
A well thought-out initiative
Each decision undertaken by the Plan's governors is grounded in three strategic priorities: benefit security, contribution rate stability, and equity among members. Growing Plan membership provides the opportunity to further support these priorities, specifically:
- Increasing contribution rate stability,
- Improving the likelihood that the Plan will remain in a surplus funded position, and
- Improving the likelihood of paying conditional inflation protection now and in the future.
Continued growth will help the Plan continue to achieve these goals for current and future Plan members. Furthermore, when assessing whether to welcome other organizations into the CAAT Plan, it is a key requirement of the Plan's governors that the financial health of the Plan cannot decline as a result of any merger. This means the Plan will not assume another plan's pension deficit or subsidize contributions rates of new employees that join.
Innovative, Modern DB pension plan
The CAAT Plan's merger with the Royal Ontario Museum Pension Plan was the first of its kind to use Ontario’s new regulations (which came into effect November 1, 2015) permitting the conversion and transfer of assets from a single-employer pension plan in the broader public sector to a jointly governed, multi-employer pension plan.
The CAAT Plan was recognized at the 2016 Innovation Awards presented at World Pension Summit conference in The Hague, Netherlands. The Plan received a Finalist Award in the category of pension reform for its successful merger with the ROM pension plan; the only North American based pension plan or fund to win an award.
Be sure to sign up for My Pension NewsLink, to get Plan news delivered right to your inbox.
Past member information sessions and Q&As
Since launching this initiative, the Plan has held information sessions and invited questions from interested stakeholders.
Note: These sessions are listed here for information only and may contain information that is out of date or no longer applicable.
March 5, 2014 webinar "Growth is Good"
Read the webinar transcript
Welcome to the “Growth is good” webinar.
As you may have heard by following our newsletters, annual reports or website, the CAAT Pension Plan is currently in detailed discussions with several universities about exploring the option of them merging with our Plan.
Merger discussions are on a campus-by-campus basis, reflecting the voluntary nature of our proposal, and the fact that pensions are negotiated at the campus level.
Discussions at Trent and Queen’s campuses are in progress, while talks with six other universities are at the preliminary stages.
In its 2012 and 2013 budgets, the Ontario government has encouraged pension plans to find efficiencies and better manage risks, especially single employer plans such as those in the university sector.
The CAAT Plan believes it’s beneficial to be leading the process, and using our pension experience and expertise to help form good public policy and strengthen pensions.
We have taken the initiative here.
Provincial legislation permitting the transfer of assets from university pensions to the CAAT Pension Plan will need to be enacted to complete any merger that includes past service transfers.
It’s important to know, the principles guiding the Plan’s discussions are to act in the best interest of the Plan members.
This means the Plan will not assume any responsibility for a university plan’s existing shortfall.
In addition, regardless of how many universities eventually join, the colleges and college members would retain at least 50% of governance roles.
These are the basics of the proposal.
So, let’s dive into more detail. What I want to do in this brief presentation is to address the following three questions:
What is being proposed and why is it a good idea? (Slides 4 - 10)
Let’s start with the first question: What is being proposed and why is it a good idea?
The proposal is to merge pension plans.
The two keys are that it’s voluntary and since it’s bargained on a campus by campus basis, this will require consensus or approval from each member group and the employer.
On the benefits side, future benefits will be the same as CAAT members currently enjoy.
Past benefits for university members is whatever they’ve negotiated or agreed to, so there’s no change to prior benefits.
A key attraction is about being able to exit the pension risk management business:
Employers will enjoy less volatility on their balance sheets.
They will exit the complex governance roles of managing a single employer plan.
The bargaining process will be simpler as the complex piece of pensions will be removed.
They can join a well-managed existing Jointly Sponsored Pension Plan in the Post-secondary education sector.
Again this is not being forced; it will be on a consent basis.
We strongly believe that taking leadership in helping solve pension issues in the post-secondary education sector will ensure a better outcome for all of our members and our pension plan.
A merger with university pension plans reduces risk and is beneficial because of similar pension characteristics:
We’re in the same sector.
We have similar career entry ages, both for support and academic workforce members.
We have similar retirement ages, again by support and academic members.
We all live longer than the Canadian average.
Having similar characteristics reduces pension risks and costs.
The question we hear most often is “How does this impact my contributions and benefits?”
On the financial side, the rationale for our membership is that growth is very strong; all of our key financial goals improve with pension mergers.
The probability and timing of reaching Funding Level 4, which is when contributions will be reduced, is reached sooner.
The probability of remaining fully funded in more adverse economic scenarios also exists (i.e. we avoid deficits in more scenarios).
The probability of paying conditional indexation on Post-2007 service increases.
Contribution stability (i.e. lower volatility) is improved.
Plus there’s lower risk and amount of potential contribution increases. This means that contribution increases are less likely to happen, and if it does happen, the changes are smaller.
That’s why we state, “Growth is good.”
Other questions or concerns we hear are about the impact of past debt, if any, from a university pension plan. On these types of questions, we refer people to our guiding principles in respect of mergers:
First, mergers must be in the best interest of the Plan members. For example the financial health of the Plan must remain strong.
Second, the Plan will not assume any university deficit. It remains the obligation, typically, with the university.
Third, colleges and members who work at the college retain at least 50% of the governance roles, regardless of how many universities join the Plan. Sharing governance is important, but losing control is not supported by our Sponsors and I’ll talk more about governance in the next segment.
How would a joint college and university pension plan be governed? (Slides 11 - 20)
Section 2: How would a joint college and university pension plan be governed?
First let’s review where we are today:
Currently we have a 12 member Board:
50% of that Board coming from member groups,
50% from employer groups
They govern the day to day operations, including investments and pension administration.
When universities join, the number of seats will expand beyond 12, based on the amount of assets transferred in, relative to the college-related pension assets.
You can see [by] on this slide the gradual addition of seats.
When university assets exceed college assets, we will be at the maximum Board size of 20.
Other than the number of seats, nothing else changes; it’s still 50% member and 50% employer representation, and the Board will remain responsible for investments and pension administration.
I don’t want to downplay that change is without risk or concern, but the risk is manageable.
That’s because the members of the Board have a fiduciary, legal duty to act in the best interest of the Plan and its members.
And I’ve seen a good alignment of interest on pensions regardless of whether I’m talking with the colleges and members or the universities and their members.
Decisions also require majority votes at the Board of Trustees, and the evolution of the Board will occur over time. It will evolve just like it does today when a new Board member joins the governance team.
Now let’s look at our second governance group who is responsible for changes to the Plan, including benefit design and contribution rates.
The Sponsors’ Committee is currently made up of 8 members.
Like the Board:
It’s 50% member representatives and
50% employer representatives.
Similar to the evolution of the Board, the Sponsors’ Committee will also add seats based on the asset size of the universities joining.
The maximum size of the Sponsors’ Committee will be 16 and it will retain the same mandate and 50/50 representation.
Change here will also be manageable, as employers and members have worked very well together on pensions. There’s been a very strong tradition of reaching consensus, and we expect this tradition will continue.
A fundamental strength of the Pension Plan is its Funding Policy, developed in 2006 and amended in 2011.
It sets out how surpluses, deficits, reserves and contributions will be managed.
This is the “game plan.” It’s on our website, and it removes the uncertainty of how funding will be managed in the future, regardless of who is on the governance committees.
The Funding Policy has served the plan very well through the financial crisis, and is core to the success of CAAT. This Policy will not change with the addition of the universities.
I’m not going to review this Funding Policy in detail here today, but there is another webinar posted to our website which gets into it in a little bit more detail.
Where are we in the process and the necessary approvals? (Slides 21 - 27)
And finally, Section 3: Where are we in the process and the necessary approvals?
The Stakeholder Survey, and meetings with the universities and the members, shows growing support for the CAAT-style solution.
To date we have eight universities at various levels of interest and discussion.
It’s interesting to note, the requests have come from various groups, including Boards, administrative staff and member groups directly, requesting more details and meetings.
In addition, past service from these various institutions can be from a DC (or Defined Contribution) pension plan, a hybrid pension plan, or (like the CAAT Pension Plan), a Defined Benefit plan.
Our governors not only believe that representation should change to reflect who we serve, but that the name of the Plan should be updated too.
When the first university joins, the new name of the Plan will become:
The Ontario Colleges and Universities Pension Plan, or OCU Pension Plan for short.
Moving on to next steps, each of the Plan’s three Sponsors are reviewing the required amendments to articulate the new allocation of governance seats.
Support is also needed to pass legislation to facilitate asset transfers.
Progress towards various agreements with universities will continue to be made during this time period.
We also have a commitment to keep all of you informed on the progress, and address any concerns.
Future communication will include updates in our annual report, newsletters, and we’ve recently added a special section on our website devoted to the growth initiative.
In addition, we are open to visiting colleges and explaining this in more detail.
So stay tuned, and if your college needs a visit, please let us know.
In conclusion, before we get to the questions, we believe there’s a strong alignment of interests.
We believe that the merger of interested university pension plans with our Plan will benefit all the stakeholders, by creating stable and predictable costs and more secure benefits at a lower risk.
The benefits of the merger are significant to all the stakeholder groups, and outweigh the various administrative complexities and associated risks.
That concludes my formal comments. Now we will review the questions that are being submitted online.
February 18, 2015 Member webinar "We're better together"
Read the webinar transcript
Introduction Slides 1 - 4
[Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us today for a member webinar about University pension plan mergers. My name is Mohamed Kaba and I’ll be your moderator for the session.
Our presenter today is Derek Dobson, CEO and Plan Manager of the CAAT Pension Plan.
Derek is an advocate for shared-risk Defined Benefit pension plans. He joined the CAAT Plan in 2009 and has used his more than 20 years of pension experience to build an organization that is fully funded and recognized for its good governance practices and solid investment performance. He has an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Waterloo and is an Associate of the Society of Actuaries. Derek is also serves as Co-Chair of the Canadian Public Pension Leadership Council.
Following his presentation, Derek will address questions you may have.
You may submit a question during the presentation by using the online chat function that you can see at the bottom of the control panel in the upper right corner of your screen.
Thank you for your time today, and now, without further delay, over to you, Derek.]
Thank you Mohamed and welcome to today’s webinar about university pension plan mergers.
Today’s webinar is primarily focused for members of the CAAT Pension Plan, but we are pleased to have some representatives from the university sector, government, and the regulator, as well as other interested observers from the field of pensions, on today’s call.
We welcome questions from any of the participants on the call.
As Mohamed mentioned, you can submit questions at any time and we will address them at the end of the presentation.
Besides my passion for pensions, family and friends, I also have a strong interest in cycling.
When the snow melts away I will again this year sign up for a few bike races.
In any race of a significant distance, you will see racers, often from competing teams, working together.
Working together can allow you to be up to 40% more efficient than going alone. That is a huge benefit in longer races. During today’s session we will explore the efficiencies that can be gained from pension plans working together.
We have broken down our update into 3 sections:
- Progress to date, with
- a special focus on the status of regulations, and
- a review on why plan mergers make sense, followed by a Q&A.
Progress with interested university plans Slides 5 - 8
First let’s explore why there is an interest.
A primary reason is that running a single employer pension plan over the long term is less efficient, more costly, and riskier than participating in a multi-employer pension Plan like CAAT.
Based on conversations with many groups over the past 3 years, we believe the top reasons for joining CAAT are:
Number 1: Benefit security. Members will be retired for a 20 or 30-year period on average. They want to know their pension is secure.
Number 2: Efficiency. Lower costs mean more of your contributions go to benefits.
Number 3: No surprises. CAAT is a proven entity.
Lastly, number 4: The CAAT solution is available now.
Let’s explore benefit security in a little more detail, because members have said this is critically important.
In a recent survey, 99% of members said being fully funded is the right focus.
As pension experts, we have translated that desire into the following actions, to minimize the risk of a deficit. Deficits can cause either contribution increases or benefit reductions, so we work very hard to avoid them.
First, we use realistic assumptions.
Second, we set contribution rates that reflect the objectives of our members and employers.
Third, we are building healthy fund reserves, as stated in our Funding Policy, to buffer the Plan against economic and demographic shocks.
Last, we have a strong advocacy focus, to have a pension framework that makes sense for our type of plan.
What are the results? Based on our model, the risk of a deficit over the longer term is small in our plan. Roughly about 3%.
This strong focus and results have been a calling card of CAAT, as an independent professional pension manager [that], supports over 33 employers and over 40,000 members.
CAAT is run like a not-for-profit organization, in that all funds go to benefits and reserves, not external shareholders.
We have been jointly governed since 1995, with a representative governance structure, where members and employers work well together.
We are currently managing about $8 billion in assets, which allows us to efficiently pursue a diverse set of investment opportunities.
The better our investments are, the lower the contributions can be. I am happy to report that we remain a top-quartile investment performer.
In short, CAAT has a lot to offer and we will continue to meet with both employer and member groups who are interested in learning more.
Assess the regulatory framework permitting transfers - Slides 9 - 14
As mentioned, we are ready now to provide a solution for future service.
However, many groups want to exit the pension risk management business entirely, and therefore need a solution for past service as well.
We are very close - about 85% of the way there. The legislation is in place and we are pleased with the vast majority of the content of the draft regulations.
More specifically, we are in agreement with having past service and related benefits be treated consistent with our JSPP structure, including:
An exemption from solvency funding requirements, which saves our members and employers, as well as prospective employers and members, a vast amount of money and eliminates a major factor in managing contribution rate changes.
In addition, there are no Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund premiums (or PBGF premiums) – and this is a pure saving, again focusing more contributions to benefits.
And finally, asset transfers will be calculated on a going-concern basis, or in other words, assuming the Plan will continue indefinitely.
Other helpful measures include the elimination of any current amortization schedules, or debt payments, to change to a new 15-year amortization schedule of any shortfall in the cost of entering the CAAT Plan.
And finally the regulations have a reasonable and practical framework for achieving consent from members.
During the consultation period, we will continue to work with the Ministry of Finance to further the regulations to work in more circumstances.
Specifically we have asked for 2 simple amendments.
The first: effective date, or date of merger. This determines when benefits and contributions start.
We think that the parties involved should set this up front.
This allows for better information when making decisions, including establishing costs and the dates up front, and ensuring all parties are aware of the risks that each of them hold.
This change is desired by all of the stakeholders we’ve communicated with, and I think it respects better the university bargaining environment.
The second issue is a technical one around the pricing of past service liabilities.
Currently there is a cap which will create different prices based on whether the plans are in deficit or surplus.
We believe the parties should be able to reach a deal without this constraint and then let members decide, and employers decide, if this works for them or not.
In short, we can’t subsidize incoming members.
Apart from those few details, the progress is good.
We are working towards a July 1st, 2015 implementation of the Regulatory Framework and that will permit us to move forward with the member consent phase with Trent University and their faculty for a planned effective date in 2015.
If approved, we will transition our name from the CAAT Pension Plan to the Ontario Colleges and Universities Pension Plan, or OCU Pension Plan for short.
Review why mergers are a good idea - Slides 15 - 27
Let’s turn our attention to the last section.
In our last survey, and in our members meetings with various stakeholder groups, it has been clear that the majority support plan mergers. A small group do have concerns and others would like to learn more about the impacts of Plan mergers and have their specific questions addressed.
At the highest level, the Board and Sponsors’ Committee of CAAT developed these three principles:
Number 1: Mergers have to be in the best interest of CAAT Plan members.
Number 2: The CAAT Plan will not assume any university’s pension deficit.
Number 3: Colleges and members who work at colleges, will retain at least 50% of the governance roles, regardless of how many universities join.
Unofficially there’s a fourth principle, or commitment – to not impact service levels to existing members and employers.
We will grow as we go.
As long as these principles are met, we can assist universities and their members, to tailor a solution that works for them.
Slide 17 & 18
A few details on the proposal itself:
It is voluntary, and a consent-based proposal.
Future benefits and contributions for university members will mirror CAAT Plan provisions
Past service pensions earned by members to date will continue to mirror their previous plan.
We believe this respects the collective bargaining arrangement to reach those benefits on prior service. So in essence, nothing [is] changed.
Both past and future periods will count for early retirement eligibility purposes, and their final average earnings will be reflected for both those periods of service.
In effect, it is very similar to employers and members amending their plan for future service to our benefit structure.
The proposal ultimately allows single employer universities to exit the pension plan management business, which is a key factor.
They will join an established, fully-funded, sustainable pension plan and the proposal reflects three years of discussions to meet the needs of various employer and member groups.
The solution will continue to evolve as needed.
What about benefits to CAAT members?
We look at our key focus areas, the first one being benefit security and the second being contribution stability.
The proposal improves the probability of remaining fully funded in more adverse economic scenarios.
It improves the probability of paying conditional indexation for the periods of service that have conditional indexation.
The proposal also improves the stability of our contribution rates, so they are less volatile.
They also accelerate the timing of potential contribution decreases for all.
In essence, the proposal aligns very well with the Plan’s objectives.
The second theme or concern that we’ve heard is “who will make decisions on a go-forward basis on behalf of the OCU Pension Plan?”
It’s very similar to today. Our 50/50 joint governance structure remains.
50/50 means that 50% of the representatives are appointed by the members, and 50% are appointed by the employers.
Will expand gradually to include universities and members.
We will continue to respect and respond to all stakeholder groups whether or not they have a direct seat. In fact, we already do this today.
It is rewarding to hear from our current stakeholders about the positive feedback about the Plan.
Partially because of that success, some want to keep the Plan on the current path.
They have concerns that the governance changes could be risky.
We believe, because of the Board of Trustees that oversees investments and administration, that the risks are not that relevant.
Specifically, regardless of who appoints the Trustees, they have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the Plan.
There is a general alignment of interests that I’ve seen through all my discussions in the past 3 years.
Decisions of the Board of Trustees will continue to require a majority vote.
The implementation of new Board seats will occur over time.
Similarly, there is low risk from changes to the Sponsors’ Committee, who determine benefits and contributions.
Specifically the diverse needs and philosophies of many different stakeholder groups today have never been an impediment to reaching an agreement.
There has been an established culture at CAAT of finding the right solution to meet all stakeholders’ needs.
In addition, fundamental decisions are enshrined in the Funding Policy. It’s a strength of the pension plan, and I have more on the next slide.
Similarly, the implementation of new seats on the Sponsors’ Committee will gradually occur over time.
The CAAT Plan Funding Policy works well, and is a cornerstone to the Plan’s sustainability.
So what is it? Essentially it is a decision roadmap to manage through the ups and downs over time.
Specifically, it balances reserves, contributions, and conditional benefits, with the goal of securing existing benefits with stable contributions.
It has been working well since 2006 when it was first introduced.
It is available on our website, and it has a strong alignment to the objectives and desires of our members and employers.
And, having it documented limits surprises that may occur due to changes in the future.
So we believe the governance changes are of low risk.
Now let’s look at concern/theme number 3 – cross-subsidization between colleges and universities.
As stated previously, for future service, employers and members will pay the same contribution rates in total as college members. There is no cross-subsidy.
Past benefits will be transferred in at the same funding level, or asset level, as the rest of the Plan.
Again, there is no cross-subsidy.
If a transfer shortfall does exist, the university will be responsible for the difference. So again, there is no cross-subsidy between universities and colleges or their members.
Finally, question or issue Number 4: If this is a benefit, why limit it to just the post-secondary education sector in Ontario?
The key reasons are on this slide (see Slide 25).
Essentially the demographic and risk profile of the colleges and universities in [Ontario] are very similar.
And because they are similar, they present opportunities to reduce risk for all stakeholders.
In addition, we are governed by the same provincial pension legislation.
In short, we’re better together.
The benefits of mergers are significant to all stakeholder groups.
Mergers create a more stable and predictable cost base, and improved security of benefits, and reduces risk.
I can’t claim that it will be 40% more efficient than going alone, but the gains are substantial for all stakeholders in the long term.
At this point, I’m going to pause for questions.
Two other members of our team – Diane Smith, our Manager of Communications, and John Cappelletti, our Manager of Stakeholder Relations – will help me field the questions.
If you haven’t already done so, please send us your questions by typing them in the chat box at the bottom of the control panel on the right side of your screen. We will read the questions and then respond to them.
Live Question and Answers during webinar
If you don’t get the change you want, does that mean past service benefits won’t be fully transferred into CAAT?
Thank you for that question. It really depends on what the funding status of the two plans are at that time. As we sit today, we don’t think a change in the past service will have an impact, but we think that many universities will be exploring a solution for years to come. So we’re looking for a change in regulations that will work both for today and in the future. So in summary James, I don’t think that we have constraints today if the regulations don’t change, but we are concerned about the future.
We have another question from a member who wants to know, will all members, including retirees, have an opportunity to vote for this proposed merger?
If you’re a member of the university pension plan, yes. All members, whether they be active or retired, will have a chance to participate in the consent [process]. Where you are represented by a union, the union may vote on your behalf. Those are some of the details that are being worked out.
For CAAT Plan members and retirees, you are represented by the Board of Trustees and the Sponsors’ Committee, and they will have the final decision on behalf of our current members and employers.
I would like to know how your contribution rate is determined.
We get this question a lot at the universities, because typically our contribution rates are a little bit higher than the universities, especially for members. But when we look at total contribution rates, they are quite comparable if not lower, and also in comparison to the other jointly-sponsored pension plans, who are also required to fund to a certain benefit security level.
Essentially our contribution rates are broken into two pieces. The first piece is the cost of benefits being earned today. So that’s our basic contribution rate; roughly 9% of pay. In addition, as part of our Funding Policy, we are currently collecting contributions of an extra 3% of pay called stability contribution rates. These are designed to build a healthy reserve to protect the Plan and its benefits against economic and demographic shocks that may happen in the future. As our reserve builds up, the contribution stability rates will come down. As mentioned, our pension plan funding is improving year over year, so if that trend continues, the contribution rates will start to come down as the funding health of the Plan improves. So that’s why our contribution rates are set as they are.
Universities negotiate or possibly bargain the terms of their pension plans. How can this be reconciled with college rules which don’t have bargaining of the pension?
Essentially that is one of the bigger changes that university members have to evaluate. One important part is understanding the jointly-sponsored nature of our Plan. So it’s not that members don’t have a voice through the collective bargaining process, but they have a voice at each and every meeting because of the 50/50 joint governance structure. So in essence, every decision made by the Plan is a collective bargaining issue, since everybody is at the table making that decision. However, having said that, members and employers will still retain the collective bargaining right to enter or exit the pension plan itself. And also for the first period of time, determine the right split of total contribution rates between the employer and the member. So there are still some elements of the collective bargaining process that will pertain to pensions, but not the actual negotiation of the benefits themselves.
Do you have a list of the universities that you are currently negotiating with?
Thank you for that question, Susan. I have a list and I’m not trying to be coy but many of the groups who are doing due diligence with the Plan right now have asked to remain confidential. Similar to the last question, pensions are often in the collective bargaining environment, so we have to respect that process. Some university pension plans are doing due diligence to make sure it’s actually feasible before they present this potential solution to their membership. So there are, in total, about 10 universities overall that are at various levels of due diligence and interest. So, it is being pursued by a good cross section of the university sector. And as stated before, I think it will be several years before each group can properly evaluate this.
We have now reached the end of the time today. In the coming days, a recording of this presentation will be placed on our website, along with transcripts, both in French and in English. You can watch our member newsletters and sign up for My Pension NewsLink via our website to receive all updates.
Our newsletters are also publicly available to people who aren’t members of our pension plan through our website.
I encourage you to share the posted recording with your colleagues who may have not been able to attend today, but do have interest in learning more about the merger proposal.
You can also continue to send in your questions to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, you will receive an email from us, asking for your feedback on this session. Please take a moment to complete this questionnaire. We will use your input to improve our future communication and understand what issues you’d like to hear about.
I want to thank everybody for their time today, and have a great day!
Questions & Answers
Will the CAAT Plan be taking on debt if a university joins?
No, the Plan will not take on any debt of a university pension plan. This is a key requirement set out by the CAAT Plan Board of Trustees. If a university joins the CAAT Plan, the financial health of the Plan cannot decline as a result. Any past deficits remain the responsibility of the university.
Will the current employers lose control of the Plan if universities join?
No, current employers will not lose control of the Plan regardless of how many universities join. This is another key requirement set out by the Plan Governors. The Board is required to act in the best interest of Plan members.
Which universities is the Plan in talks with?
Can you tell us what universities are currently in talks with the CAAT Pension Plan?
We are in the preliminary stage of talks with a number of universities. We committed to those universities, member groups or boards that we would not disclose this publicly at this time. Part of the communication strategy for discussions with universities, once both members and the universities are aware of the discussions, is to be as transparent as possible. So we made that commitment to keep them confidential at this time. As discussions continue to occur, this will become public knowledge and we’ll use our website to provide updates on who we’re having discussions with.
What are the risks and benefits of the proposed merger?
What are the 3 biggest benefits to the merger, in layman’s terms?
Even better stability than what we have already achieved and therefore an increased likelihood of paying conditional benefits and reducing contribution rates, even with continuing market volatility.
In what ways is bigger, better?
The Plan doesn’t believe that ‘bigger is better’ necessarily. What works is ‘sector pooling’ – where member groups with similar demographic and risk profiles pool their pension liabilities and investments to achieve efficiencies in delivering lifetime pensions. The Colleges and Universities are well suited to pooling their pension obligations and assets because they have many demographic similarities, including age at entry and retirement, years of service, and longevity.
How would this merger benefit us at the college?
From an employer perspective, a merger will help to keep contribution rates stable and even increase the likelihood that rates could be reduced in future. Of course, members would benefit from these too.
The CAAT Plan will not assume any pension shortfall. Taking on someone else’s debt is not part of our guiding principles, which require that any agreement be in the best interest of our members. The shortfall of any university pension plan remains the responsibility of that pension plan, and that typically sits with the universities themselves.
The benefits have been well outlined. What are the negatives, or down sides of this merger?
From a member perspective, I would say there are very few, if any, downsides of this merger.
From the Plan perspective, of course there are the administrative and staffing changes that we’ll need to make to ensure this happens without impacting current service levels. We believe the financial risks are very well covered off based on the pricing methodology we are using with the universities. So, not only do universities benefit from the financial side, due to the efficiencies of being part of a larger plan, but our Plan also gets the financial benefit of more contributions and assets to manage. So, it is a ‘win win’ scenario. We are keeping our eyes open to see if any negatives or downsides do occur, but we have spent a lot of time discussing our approach to managing risks if a university joins the Plan and we believe those risks are covered off.
You mentioned the risks are manageable but it sounds like there is no downside. Can you expand on these risks?
Our expertise is risk management, so we have identified and analyzed all of the risks and how we will mitigate them. For example, there is always a risk that the member data that we used to estimate liabilities changes when those university members join. To guard against that, we have assumed a certain amount of error in our estimates and will also have contract language to protect us from the cost of such changes. Another risk might be that the assets a university brings into the Plan are relative underperformers to the assets the Plan already invests in. We would mitigate that risk by evaluating those assets using our own screens and other tools before we finalize any agreement with that university to ensure the assets have been appropriately priced.
We also need to plan for the additional work to service more employers and their members as universities join. We would consider this a risk, though it is a relatively easy one to plan for.
You mentioned this merger would protect us against a number of other adverse economic scenarios. Could you talk about what scenarios we would be protected against?
They are such things as further market volatility, or even lower interest rates than what we are facing today, possibly to the point of deflation, which require more funds to be invested to secure pensions.
Market volatility is one factor that indirectly influences contribution rates. Market losses put upward pressure on contribution levels. Low interest rates and increasing member longevity also put upward pressure on contribution rates by increasing the cost of liabilities. A bigger membership spreads the risk of increasing longevity across a bigger pool. And a bigger asset pool enables a plan to have more diversified investments which also spreads risk and lessens volatility.
How would university plans in a deficit position be handled by the universities in question once they become Plan members?
From the point the university joins their members will contribute and build service in the CAAT Plan from that point forward the same way as all members.
For the benefits that have already been accrued in their prior plan there are a few ways those past service obligations or liabilities can be funded. The universities can continue to retain those liabilities and to manage the corresponding assets, though many will want to get out of the business of managing pensions by effectively outsourcing it to those who specialize in managing that type of financial risk. They could do that by purchasing annuities from an insurer or by paying a pension risk manager an agreed-upon amount of funds to assume their liabilities. The Plan may enter into these contracts by charging the university what we know to be enough to fund the benefits, based on our expertise estimating the long-term cost of pensions and in investing assets to match those obligations. We must however charge enough that there is no risk of our members needing to subsidize the past service benefits, ever. If the prior plan has insufficient assets to cover the owed benefits, a top-up payment will need to be made by the university to provide for full funding of those benefits.
Who will pay the pensions of university members who are already retired, and how will it be done?
It depends. The university may retain responsibility for paying those benefits directly, or outsource the responsibility to a third party, such as an insurance company. The Plan will only assume those obligations, or liabilities, if sufficient assets are transferred to fund them. The Plan will not take on a funding shortfall from the universities.
No. We would need to receive sufficient assets from the university or its pension plan to pre-fund the benefits owed to already retired members. Similarly, we would need to receive sufficient assets to pre-fund the past service benefits that active members have accrued and will collect in the future.
If universities had a deficit in the past, wouldn't that likely mean they will have one in the future and how does that impact college pensions?
Past service and future, or going-forward, service will be treated separately. From the point they join the CAAT Plan, university members will have a fresh start in the Plan as new members from that point forward, contributing and building service the same way all CAAT Plan members do, so benefits will be fully funded. Past service benefits will only be assumed by the Plan if sufficient assets are transferred in by the university to pre-fund those benefits so the Plan does not assume any debt or unfunded liability from the university plans.
You mentioned the transfer of past assets and liabilities, but I thought we weren’t assuming liabilities.
For universities that wish to exit the pension risk management business, we will be taking on and administering their past service liabilities, but we will be requiring full assets to cover all those liabilities. In that case, the assets and the liabilities will be perfectly matched so that we’re not assuming any unfunded past service liabilities in those situations.
University members currently don’t pay the same contribution rates as we do. How do we ensure that everyone is being treated fairly?
On a prospective or going forward basis, universities and their members will pay the same rates as colleges and their members and will earn benefits the same way. There will be no cross subsidization of contribution rates between the parties. At many universities, members will pay higher contribution rates when they join our plan. The higher rates will reflect the more secure and otherwise improved benefits they will build in our Plan going forward.
Do members get a say in this decision? How do you know this is what members want?
The Plan is run by members and employers, through their representatives on the Board of Trustees. The Board equally represents members and employers, and Board members are appointed by the Sponsors of the Plan. Half the trustees are appointed by the employer Sponsor – Colleges Ontario, and half by the employee Sponsors –OPSEU and OCASA. Board members are fiduciaries. That means that each decision they make must be in the best interest of Plan beneficiaries.
The Board is fully in support of this initiative, as are the three Sponsors.
Will all members (including retirees) have an opportunity to vote for this proposed merger?
The Trustees on the Board and members of the Sponsors’ Committee are always open to hearing from members about their thoughts on the pension plan, so there will not be a voting mechanism where we go out to all members. There is a process currently in place where a participation agreement with the university would come through the Board of Trustees and the Sponsors’ Committee and be evaluated on its impact on the Plan and the membership. Any feedback from members on that process is definitely welcome and can be submitted to the Plan for presentation to the Board. So, there is a voice for members at the Plan governance level but the official voting will happen at the Board and the Sponsors’ Committee tables.
You indicated consent was required. Consent by who – universities, current CAAT members or both?
Our Plan governors – the Board of Trustees and the Sponsors’ Committee – representing members and the colleges will approve any merger.
Have CAAT Plan surveys demonstrated support for this change and is this a done deal?
The stakeholder engagement survey we conducted in the fall of 2013 showed there was general support for the concept of a merger but members wanted to know more. Since we received that feedback we have covered our proposal to welcome interested universities to the Plan in our member newsletters, have introduced a dedicated a page on our website to the topic and conducted this webinar. If the feedback on the webinar shows there is an interest in receiving more information we will reach out again.
We are moving forward in our discussions with universities but will only enter into agreements that are in the best interest of the Plan and its members.
How can we decide if this is a good idea if we don't know who the other players are?
We will publish the university names and other information about negotiations when we can. We have outlined in this webinar and in our member newsletters what a merger would entail and our principle of acting in the best interest of members will apply to all negotiations with any university.
Sharing Plan governance with universities
Why would the Plan share 50% of governance with universities?
The Plan is a model jointly sponsored pension plan, or JSPP: Members and employers work together – through the Board of Trustees – sharing decisions and risks in managing the Plan. As fiduciaries, Board members must consider the best interest of all Plan beneficiaries, regardless of which sponsoring organization appointed them. Ongoing Trustee education and regular meetings builds on these strengths.
This highly effective governance structure has led to many successes, including marked improvements in the Plan’s funded status and effectively-managed risk. Board members appointed from universities are fully expected to fit into this collegial approach and it is only fair that universities would have representation in the Plan’s governance.
50% is the maximum split the Board could move to. Universities would have to join in sufficient numbers to have assets that equal the current CAAT Plan assets to reach 50% of the governance positions.
Why do so few universities that are currently involved in talks to join CAAT have a 50% say?
Representation will be tied to size of membership and assets. A small number of universities may have assets that surpass that of the CAAT Plan, yet they will have a maximum 50% of the votes.
Are there any guarantees that the 50% college representation will not change?
Any change to Sponsorship and Trust Agreement, which outlines exactly how governance roles will be appointed by the various Sponsors of the pension plan requires unanimous consent by all the Sponsors. Colleges Ontario, OPSEU and OCASA would all have to agree unanimously to change that. Given my discussions with each of those three parties, I do not sense any appetite to move beyond 50% representation.
Even when/if the university contribution exceeds the college contribution, the colleges will still have 50% control/governance of the Plan?
That is correct. Colleges and members will retain 50% of the governance of the Plan.
According to your statements, there will be 3 stakeholders groups, OPSEU, Universities and Admin. If OPSEU only has 8 seats of 24 we do not have 50% control. Please explain how you get the 50% + control amount.
There are currently three Sponsors of the Plan: OPSEU, OCASA, both representing members, and Colleges Ontario, representing employers. If universities join, members and employers will continue to share governance appointments 50/50, but the players in each group will enlarge. For example, a university’s members will be represented by an employee group on the member side and the university administration will be represented on the employer side.
Are there guarantees that the arrangements won’t change?
In terms of guarantees around the Funding Policy, to make any changes on how surpluses and deficits will be managed in the future would require 100% of the current Sponsors’ Committee or any future Sponsors’ Committee. In essence, the colleges would have to completely agree, unanimously, to make any changes in the future. So that’s one form of guarantee that it won’t significantly impact the current direction of the pension plan.
In terms of the financial arrangements, those financial risks are being covered off with properly pricing out the obligations that we’re taking on. We believe that both of those elements will guarantee that there won’t be a negative impact on the Plan.
Ultimately if universities do get 50% of the governance roles, how do you settle ‘ties’?
The Board is made up of fiduciaries, who, legally, have to act in the interest of the Plan and the members. A majority vote is required to pass any resolutions, but having that aligned interest on fiduciary duties, we do not see this being a major risk. However, on the Sponsors’ Committee, where decisions about benefits and contributions are made, we will still require unanimous consent to pass all the resolutions concerning contributions and benefits again, to keep in the spirit of making sure that all parties and participants in the Plan fully support any changes in that area.
Questions about why this is happening
Where did this idea originate?
This idea originated a couple of years back, when the Drummond report was presented to the government. In that report, it was suggested that universities and colleges merge investments and administration. That got discussions flowing about finding a better solution than just finding small efficiencies on the investments or administration front. We thought, the better form of risk management for our members, and in fact for universities and their members as well, was to actually pursue plan mergers. This provides all the financial benefits I talked about before, and not just administrative cost savings, which was what the Drummond report suggested.
The Plan is strong enough. Why are we pursuing this at all?
As I mentioned before, it’s better to be in advance of what’s being discussed or possibly could happen in the future from a legislative perspective. We would prefer to pursue this on our terms in a very balanced and non-time-sensitive manner, so this can be thought out in a very strategic sense. We still believe, after investigating, that it is definitely in the best interest of Plan and our members and having the time to evaluate this over the last 2 years, and moving forward will make sure that the Plan stays strong. Moving back to the key performance indicators on the Plan, the impact on Plan funding will be a positive impact.
Why are universities contacting us?
The CAAT Plan initiated this idea. Recognizing the power of joint sponsorship and sector pooling, the Plan has asked interested universities if they would like to join the Plan. As a fully funded plan, with a model, highly functional governance structure, and exemption from solvency funding, the Plan is an attractive option for universities. University plans are typically single-employer plans, meaning the plan is run by the university. This is not their core business or expertise. The CAAT Plan is an independent organization, run by Plan members and employers together.
More university plans are now reaching out to us because our proposal makes business sense and they are smart. It’s a compliment to the Plan that other pension plans are interested in us.
What are we trying to solve?
A few years ago, some politicians at Queen’s Park thought that perhaps imposing legislation to force mergers might be the path. That is no longer the case, but that could change in the future. The Sponsors and the Board believe that it’s still in our collective best interest to find a solution and make sure the Plan is managed with the least risk possible.
Is the Plan being forced to allow universities to join?
This is our initiative: The Plan believes that a strong joint governance structure, and sector pooling is the most prudent, and efficient way to manage a defined benefit plan to build retirement income. University and college members share similar population characteristics that are relevant to a pension plan, such as longevity, career earnings arc, and retirement dates.
Many universities are also exploring other options, and several are not interested at all. It’s voluntary for them as well.
If we don't merge with the universities, what is likely to happen? Will the government force a merger?
This is not a government initiative – it is a CAAT Plan initiative. If we don’t merge with universities, the CAAT Plan will remain a fully-funded, well-run pension plan.
If in the future if they do the forced mergers, do we then have to take on liabilities of the universities involved?
No. Under pension law, the current members of the CAAT Plan cannot be expected to assume the pension debt of members of other pension plans.
If there had not been a risk of government-forced mergers , would merging still be a good idea, and why?
Yes, because pooling assets and liabilities for member populations with similar characteristics offers the same advantages: more stability, lower risk, lower costs and a greater likelihood of further funding improvements.
How would the government perceive this move and could they respond in a way that diminishes the Plan's effectiveness?
The government is aware of our discussions with the universities and is in favour of what we are trying to achieve – efficiencies and increased stability of pension benefits across the post-secondary sector.
Does the province have any input or access to the funds in either our plan or the university plans?
No. The funds in defined benefit pension plans exist to pay the pensions earned by the members, and are protected by law to be used for that purpose.
Why would anyone want to join unless they were in trouble and looking for a way out?
Joining our plan offers universities many advantages that have nothing to do with retiring any past service pension debt. On a go-forward basis – in other words in respect of the service their members will build in a merged plan from the point they join – they will benefit from the size and regulatory advantages of being part of a large, multi-employer plan and one that is jointly governed by members and employers and professionally managed by pension experts. Contrast that with the current situation where each university operates its own pension plan and is responsible for investment management, actuarial valuations, pension accounting, benefits administration and pension communication, areas that are not their areas of core expertise. Joining our plan enables them to effectively outsource those specialty areas to pension experts and also benefit from the economies of scale the Plan enjoys.
The Plan will not take on the past debt of the university pension plans without sufficient assets to match that debt.
How did the Universities get into trouble and what would stop them from continuing this trend?
The universities operate single employer pension plans, which don’t benefit from the stability and efficiencies of pooling assets and liabilities or the regulatory advantages that apply to jointly sponsored pension plans. The governance of their plans has not shared risks equally with members and many are not 50/50 cost share plans.
Once a university joins with our plan, their members will contribute and build benefits the same way our existing members do, and the Plan will continue to be professionally managed the same way it is today. The universities and their members will have a say in the oversight of that professional management through their representatives on the governing bodies but they will not be making day-to-day decisions about managing the Plan.
About transferring Assets and Liabilities from university plans
We will not assume any funding shortfall as a result of a university joining the Plan. We will assume past service liabilities provided sufficient assets are transferred to prefund those benefits. If the university plan has a shortfall they will need to close that gap before we will assume responsibilities for those past service liabilities.
Once a university joins with our plan, from that point forward (“future service”) their members will earn and pay for their pension benefits the same way as all CAAT Plan members do so there will be no funding shortfall for those benefits either.
Concerns related to differences in ‘benefits,’ contribution rates
University salaries are higher and their benefits are better, how can colleges be assured that our resources will not be drained to subsidize better university pensions?
Once a university joins the Plan, its members will contribute and earn benefits the same way all CAAT Plan members do. Member contributions are based on earnings and pensionable service and employers match member contributions.
Pension benefits university employees have already earned in the prior plan will either remain with the university, or be assumed by the Plan but only if sufficient assets are transferred to pre-fund those benefits.
A merger will only involve pension benefits. Non-pension benefits and other HR matters will remain the responsibility of the universities, just as the colleges retain responsibility for those non-pension matters.
By joining the Plan universities will be transferring responsibility for offering pension benefits over to our independent organization that is jointly governed by members and employers.
Will universities pay different contributions than us?
No – all members in the Plan pay the same contribution rate, and it is matched by their employers. That is one of the benefits of the Plan: it is fair and treats all stakeholders equitably.
Universities pay very different contribution rates that we do now. What if they don’t like the 50/50 cost sharing model?
Universities that join the Plan will have to reach agreements with their employee groups to move to the 50/50 cost-share model before they join the Plan. We are providing all the information they need to make a fully informed decision. The 50/50 cost sharing model of the CAAT Plan is actually one of the benefits of joining: it is part of the fully shared risk of running the Plan. Members gain access to a well-managed, stable pension plan that they jointly govern with employers. Employers get to exit the pension administration business, while providing dependable retirement income to their employees.
You said that the university members will need to increase their contributions to be in line with the current membership. Their historical contributions will be less, but will university members get a retirement outcome that compares to their contributions? Or, will this increase to be in line with the membership’s?
For future service, that is from the date a university joins the Plan going forward, university members will pay the same contribution rates as all members.
If the university wishes to transfer past service into the Plan, it will need to provide the Plan with sufficient assets, as determined by the Plan, to pre-fund those past service liabilities. The Plan will not assume any debt or unfunded liability from the universities.
Will university members have the 85 factor as presently our local university does not have a factor? What about retirement age and the 60/20 rule?
Once a university joins the CAAT Plan, their members will have the same benefit options in the Plan, provided they qualify for them. If past service is brought into the Plan (with corresponding assets to pre-fund those benefits) it will apply to qualification criteria for such things as early retirement.
University plans are currently bargained but the CAAT Pension Plan isn’t. What happens here?
Universities and members that join our Plan will no longer be bargaining anything to do with their pension benefits. The only bargaining element is whether they want to leave the Plan at some future date, and that will be according to the participation agreement that all parties sign. It cannot be just an exit from the Plan at any point and time but rather a measured exit if that is what the members and the universities desire in the future. Again, all members will be treated the same, and university members and universities will not have bargaining rights over the pensions they build in the CAAT Plan.
Concerns about specific benefits
Will the Plan still be a defined benefit (DB) plan?
Will this proposed merger steer the Plan towards a defined contribution plan versus a defined benefit plan?
Absolutely not. The proposed merger would strengthen the CAAT Plan, by making it more stable and secure. There is no plan to create a DC plan.
What is the impact on existing retirees?
There is no impact. Your pension will not change; it will continue to be paid, as promised, for the rest of your life. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the strength of the pension plan improves with the merger with universities so that if any retirees have future conditional inflation protection benefits, the likelihood of these being paid increases with the merger with universities.
Is my pension secure so it is there when I retire?
Yes, this does not affect your pension.
Will I still be able to retire at the time I’ve been planning for?
Yes. No provisions of the Plan will change as a result of this merger.
Will new dollars be available for current CAAT pensioners?
Not in the near term. A merger does increase the likelihood that the Plan may eventually move to Level 6 of the Funding Policy, which is the funded level at which benefit improvements may be considered.
Could inflation protection for pre-1992 service be paid earlier than Level 6 funding with the universities joining?
The merger would not change the Funding Policy.
How will this affect the contracted staff such as partial load faculty?
There is no impact on these or any other members. Plan rules and benefits remain the same.
Are there any changes which will affect any present spousal issues?
There will be no changes to benefits, including the provincial law that applies upon marriage breakdown.
About transferring between colleges and universities
Will it allow employees easier transfer of pensions from college to university and vice versa?
Yes, provided the university is in the Plan, there would actually be no transfer required, because benefits will be in the same Plan. You would terminate and stop contributing at one employer and enrol and start contributing with your new employer.
If I leave the college for employment at a university before that university joins CAAT, what happens to my pension if my new employer joins the CAAT pension plan?
This depends on whether you transferred your CAAT Plan pension to the university or left it as a deferred pension. If you transferred your CAAT Plan pension to the university plan it will be transferred back to the CAAT Plan, if the university reaches an agreement to transfer past service benefits into the Plan. You will receive detailed information and assistance with your decisions along the way.
Will I be able to work at a University after a College?
Yes. This merger would improve ‘portability’ – the ability for a member to move their pension plan with them when they change employers. If you were to go from a College to a University that belongs to the Plan, you would automatically transfer your pension with you. We currently have this provision for members who go from working at one College to another.
How will retiring in the college sector but continuing to work in the university sector be affected?
If you go directly to work for a university that joins the Plan you would remain a member and continue to build your pension until you leave the university, just as would happen if you left one college and went to work at another.
How will the merger affect the Plan’s investment program?
The investment program is driven by the Plan’s risk profile, and by the characteristics of the liabilities. As university and college liabilities and risks are similar, the analysis and measured approach that we take won’t change.
About the merger process
What is the deadline for the merger decision?
There is no deadline. These negotiations are initiated by the Plan and interested universities and no outside body is forcing it on us. These negotiations are proceeding at different paces, to ensure that all parties are fully informed and satisfied.
When will we know when any decision has been made?
If a university decides to join we will announce it to our membership and they will announce it to their employees.
Are there any other potential mergers with other groups in the near future?
Only universities have been invited because they have similar workforce qualities which make a merger beneficial for all.
What would happen if a big university joined the Plan, and then decided to leave at a later date? How would it affect the Plan?
The option to leave the Plan will be negotiated with each university to form part of their agreement. The agreement will ensure that the Plan and its members are not disadvantaged in any way by a university’s departure.
Questions about Plan costs and staffing / service levels
What will be the impact on service at the CAAT Pension Plan?
Our goal is not to impact service at all. We will scale up our technology and our staffing to meet the requirements of the universities. We implemented a new pension system at the beginning of this year. This allows us to be able to make improvements as needed on a going forward basis.
In addition, we expect that university pension plans will not join all at once, but will join one or two at a time. This will give us ample lead time to make staffing and system changes, so the impact on our membership will not be felt.
Will the increase in workload on the part of CAAT result in increased administrative fees applied to pensions?
The Plan does not have administration fees per se. With universities joining administration costs will be spread across a bigger membership, and we are now implementing a new pension administration system that automates more processes -- so there is room to increase staff without it having an impact on administration costs that will be felt by members. This is the efficiency a bigger plan can deliver.
Will there be an expansion of employees for the day-to-day activities of the Plan and would that be made up of staff from universities?
If any additional staffing is required we would follow our normal recruiting processes and university staff would be welcome to apply for those positions, as are college employees.
Will there be major changes in the administration manual as a result of the merger?
The Plan’s benefits are not changing, so changes to the administration manual would be minimal changes to terminology, to reflect that employers include universities.