Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Continuing education provides public pension fund fiduciaries with core competencies

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Managing a pension system is a complicated task that requires a fund’s board of trustees to establish the strategic direction of the system, hire necessary staff and consultants, adopt investment policy, and understand governance. As trustees and administrators of public pension plans, you aren’t expected to be know-it-alls, but you should obtain education that provides and improves core competencies as fiduciaries. 

It is essential for pension system trustees and administrators to stay current with the latest industry developments, gain a better understanding of rules and regulations, and expand your leadership skill sets through continuing education. Trustees and administrators of retirement systems are often scrutinized for the decisions they make in handling the funds of public employees. The public inspection is warranted because the job of managing a retirement system isn’t to be taken lightly. After all, the secure retirements of a fund’s active and retired participants are at stake.

Educational opportunities abound, especially at the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems. We host conferences, educational forums, and training sessions geared to public funds and others that focus on investments. These are in-person programs geared to both novice and tenured pension board members and plan administrators.

TEXPERS is the largest provider of pension trustee training and continuing education for pension system trustees and administrators in Texas. Its programming caters to public pensions and are great ways for trustees to learn the ins and outs of the pension industry. At the same time, the association’s events introduce trustees to potential business contacts and mentors.

The association provides several outlets for its members to improve their board and administrative skills. TEXPERS hosts a membership conference as well as an educational forum every year. Also, the association offers continuing education opportunities such as its Basic Trustee Training class, which fulfills requirements established by the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013.

The state legislature instructed the Pension Review Board to establish a Minimum Educational Training Program for trustees and system administrators of Texas public retirement systems. The state’s minimum requirements include core and non-core topics. The core topics focus on the fundamental competencies of public pensions necessary for trustees and system administrators to successfully discharge their duties. Topics include fiduciary matters, governance, ethics, investments, actuarial issues, benefits administration, and risk management. The non-core covers items that go beyond the basics to allow trustees and administrators to gain further expertise in additional areas related to their duties. Those topics include compliance, legal and regulatory matters, pension accounting, custodial issues, plan administration, the Texas Open Meetings Act, and the Texas Public Information Act.

TEXPERS is an accredited education sponsor by the Pension Review Board. That means the state board reviewed the association’s Basic Trustee Training. Along with Basic Trustee Training, TEXPERS periodically offers Advanced Trustee Training, which meets the continuing education requirements of the Pension Review Board. In addition to these classes, some sessions at TEXPERS’ conferences also meet continuing education requirements of the Pension Review Board.

Education assists trustees in maintaining their knowledge of state-of-the-art pension fund management techniques and changes in the law or court decisions concerning pension funds. Also, educational opportunities serve as a focal point for the exchange of ideas and best practices among participating members.

A public pension fund’s board of trustees is responsible for overseeing the operation of the system, development of an investment strategy, and assuring the fund’s conformance with law. The board ensures that its organization upholds the interest of the public employees – those members it serves pre- and post-retirement.

When you joined TEXPERS, you gained the ability to continually sharpen your skills and gain fresh insights into the public pension industry. You’ll be able to expand on your skill sets again May 3-6 in Galveston, Texas, during the association’s 31st Annual Conference at Moody Gardens Hotel & and Convention Center. This year, our theme is Pensions in 20/20: Focusing on Secure Retirement. We are now in the process of planning the various sessions, workshops, keynote and motivational speakers, and networking opportunities.

Registration opens this month. Visit www.texpers.org for details as they become available, including a draft of our program. We are now accepting conference sponsorships. For details, email texpers@texpers.org or call our offices at 713-622-8018.

Pension funds should track their educational hours their trustees obtain and align educational goals with any training the state requires. Public pension system boards should consider establishing a trustee training policy that affirms the importance of education to the success of fulfilling their fiduciary duties to prudently administer the retirement system. Policy should begin with ensuring individual trustees have continual access to education. Boards that are strong on education are in a better position to be successful.

An entire board should be exposed to continuing education; otherwise, the result is a handful of players driving all the decisions which defeat the point of deciding by board consensus.

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