Building a New Pension System for UC

Posted by Donna Yamasaki, senior application manager, Information Technology Services, UCOP. The University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) is a tax-qualified defined benefit plan with multiple tiers and membership classifications and approximately 250,000 total members. UCOP administers the program and investments to fulfill fiduciary, compliance, and reporting requirements.

Having a functional pension administration system is a fiduciary responsibility to plan members. Because of the convergence of changes to post-employment benefits, escalating mainframe costs as the Payroll Personnel System sunsets, numerous challenges in maintaining an aging thirty-year-old COBOL system, and increased compliance and reporting needs, Human Resources (HR) and Information Technology Services (ITS) at UCOP have determined that the current pension administration system needs to be replaced.

Through a rigorous RFP process, a data vendor and pension vendor was obtained. The vendors selected have significant experience successfully implementing similar solutions for other large public pension systems. The data vendor that was hired specializes in public pension data and was brought on board one year in advance of the pension vendor to assist in our data readiness. Enterprise Application Services in ITS and HR’s Benefit Information Systems (BIS) have formed a data team of subject matter experts to work with the data vendor. The new pension administration software is expected to provide greater flexibility, integration, enhanced functionality, and customer service features. The current COBOL system has several technologies built on top which extends its functionality. While the life of the existing COBOL system has been extended by using newer technologies, it has become complex to implement mandated pension rule changes and cumbersome to implement compliance reporting and business rule changes.

The design of the new system is a collaborative effort with various teams – BIS, ITS, the Retirement Administration Service Center, and Benefits Plan Accounting – participating in joint application design sessions (JADs) led by the pension vendor. ITS developers are working with the pension vendor to develop the solution based on the JADs.

Built on top of the Microsoft .NET platform, the pension framework solution is a modern component-based extensible system. Teams are using a business rules engine, process maps, correspondence management, and design and test studios to create the solution for the university. The project and new toolset was named Redwood after California’s majestic state tree. We chose this name in part because Redwoods represent California, but we also thought a toolset named after something strong and living was appropriate.

The go live date will be September 2019.

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