When one thinks of pension plans, one does not typically connote it with speed. But for Laura Nashman, CEO of the British Columbia Pension Corporation, speed is what defines her work. “I’m constantly wondering if we’re moving fast enough, or aggressively enough, for a staff that wants to get going already,” Nashman says. “Our approach has shifted from a continuous improvement mind-set to that of transformation—to really up our game.”
She says this, of course, not only as a witness to the culture shift but as an initiator of it. Having previously worked at both the municipal and provincial levels in Ontario, Nashman joined the Pension Corporation back in December 2008 as someone who prided herself on bringing large bureaucracies to life. The organization had been around for less than a decade when Nashman came on board, and although it had already earned an outstanding reputation for client-service excellence, various pressures made it an organization in great need of an internal overhaul.
By early 2012, the formal renewal of the Pension Corporation was underway in the form of a nine-year strategic plan known as 12/21 Our Way Forward. Nashman laid out 2012–15 as the foundation phase, making sure to include fundamentals on everything from managing projects and larger work portfolios to creating a change-management discipline. It also developed substrategies for interacting with key stakeholders, such as pension plan members and employers.
BC public-sector pension programs served
Pensions in pay
Approximate amount collected monthly
Approximate amount paid monthly
Expected growth in new pensions over the next 3 years
Now, with an understanding of what has to change from a business-process and technology standpoint, the corporation will be moving to the transformation phase, its next three-year interval. “We’re not really changing what we do but how we do it,” Nashman says.
A prime example is the ability for people to apply for their pension online—a huge shift in the technology platform for the Pension Corporation. Additionally, the method by which it receives data from employers must be improved so that the data on pension plan members is accurate and timely. This is essential in enabling members to interact with their pension-related data online. Nashman credits the foundation phase with giving the company time to work through key development and idea execution thoughtfully. “Until you scope all that out—until you create the blueprint for what it is you want to build—you don’t appreciate all the intricacies,” she says.
Another critical improvement in the works is based on pension literacy—the need for pension plan members to better understand their pension and how they interact with it. “There are all kinds of important decisions that relate to unique life events, and we began to learn that members didn’t know what they [needed to] know,” Nashman says. “They didn’t even know what questions to ask.” By re-creating member information in clear, plain language and making that information more visually appealing, the Pension Corporation has made sure that members of all ages are better engaged.
The organization has also developed an integrated transformation plan to guide the next few years. It includes enhancing the organization’s online presence, increasing efficiency in business processes, and continuing essential compliance work. Way beyond that is the three-year operational phase of 12/21 Our Way Forward, taking the company from 2018 to 2021. The fact that this strategy is more complex than most—taking nine years instead of the more typical three to five—doesn’t faze Nashman, particularly when she feels so much engagement and shared ownership from the people surrounding her. “That’s the only way this stuff happens,” she says.