As the coronavirus outbreak continues, the spread of Covid-19 will have a meaningful impact on our communities and on the way businesses operate up and down the country. This post is intended to inform you how the Trustee of the STMicroelectronics (Bristol) Retirement Benefit Scheme and its administrators, Isio, are responding to these unusual circumstances.
In terms of the day to day operation of the Scheme, the Isio Business Continuity Plan is now in operation and the Trustee has confidence in its resilience. Isio are tracking the situation and will introduce additional measures, in line with specialist advice, if necessary.
Isio’s priority is to ensure continuity of service to the Scheme. Their payroll, treasury and other systems are capable of being operated by staff working remotely and these systems have been tested, such that we can reassure you that the payment of benefits to Scheme members will continue uninterrupted in this period. We will ensure that sufficient cash is held within the Scheme’s bank account to meet expected benefit payments over an extended period, longer than standard Scheme practice. Work is being strictly prioritised – ensuring that the vital elements of the Scheme administration are protected, even in the face of expected staff shortages.
Naturally Isio are adhering to Government guidelines in all operational matters (remote working, social distancing, etc.). While this is the right thing to do, it does cause some delays in retrieving physical post and also limits their ability to return post. Accordingly, and in accordance with advice from the Pensions Regulator, the Scheme is prioritising benefit payments, retirement processing and bereavement services. This means that some of the less essential tasks we routinely deliver will be delayed. We ask members for their patience but will try to accommodate their requests as much as possible.
To assist our administrators at Isio at this difficult time, if your query can wait, we’d be grateful if you could get back in touch with them in a month or two when they’ll be pleased to help. Of course if your query is urgent, for example if you are planning on retiring from the Scheme in the next couple of months, please let them know and they will respond to you as quickly as they are able. Alternatively, if you have a quick query that you would like to discuss over the phone, please call them on the normal number (+44 (0)118 338 4399). If your enquiry is urgent then please provide them with your email address, if you have not already done so.
Finally, as the preparation of paper payslips requires Isio staff members to access their offices, the mailing of these payslips will be delayed until such time as a return to office working is sanctioned by the Government. This does not affect the timeliness of pension payments themselves.
In terms of the longer term impact on the Scheme and its funding position due to the exceptional volatility of markets in these difficult times, we would note that:
- The investment strategy adopted by the Trustee provides a significant level of protection against the volatile market movements that have been observed;
- Given the above, and the long-term nature of the Scheme’s liabilities, the Trustee will not be trying to second guess short term market movements by making knee-jerk reactions;
- The Trustee’s current priority, with Isio, is to ensure that members’ benefits can be paid and their queries answered as best as possible while the coronavirus outbreak continues.