Saturday, September 26, 2015

The New NYCERS Actuary

I just came across the announcement of the new NYCERS actuary (see quote below). It is from the NYC web site dated back in May. I had been looking for it for awhile but I only found it when a friend sent me a link to the city web site. The reason I had not seen it before was that the announcement does not actually say that NYCERS had appointed a new actuary. The former NYCERS actuary, Bob North, resigned in the Fall of 2014.

May 29, 2015 NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced Sherry Chan as the City’s new Chief Actuary. In this role, Chan will serve the City’s retirement funds and oversee actuarial calculations for post-employments benefits for City employees.

Legally the City does not have a Chief Actuary. NYCERS and TRS have actuaries (see quote below from NYC Admin Code). The two retirement funds usually appoint the same person as their actuary. That appears to be a very practical policy but in reality it is not financially sound. They are two very different pension funds with different liabilities. As background, by statute the NYCERS actuary is also the actuary for the Police and Fire pension funds and the TRS actuary is also the actuary for BERS (Board of Ed. Retirement System).

Ms. Chan is a ASA of the Society of Actuaries, not a FSA. I guess that is not a big deal unless it was because NYCERS could not attract a full Fellow of the Society of Actuaries. Once upon a time actuaries needed to be highly skilled mathematical technicians. Now they need to fearless messengers of painfully news.

The assumed interest rate is the key component of the annual pension costs that the city and the other participating employers must pay to the pension funds each year. It will be interesting to see where Ms. Chan stands on the 7% net of fees rate. She will be required to make a recommendation this winter for a new five year rate effective July, 1, 2016 and Albany will have to enact enabling legislation by June 30, 2016.

I suspect she will punt and ask for a one year extension of the old rate. North did this all the time. It is a bad fiscal policy and contributes to the under-funding of the pension funds.

Her most recent job was the actuary for the Ohio State PERS which began in January, 2014 and ran through May, 2015. It was interesting to watch the NYCERS chair introduce Ms. Chan to the Board of Trustees at the June Board of Trustees meeting. I guess they had never met her before that.

§ 13-121 Retirement system; adoption of tables and certification of rates.

The actuary appointed by the board shall be the technical advisor on all matters regarding the operation of the funds provided for by this chapter and shall perform such other duties as are required of him or her.

The actuary shall keep in convenient form such data as shall be necessary for the actuarial valuation of such funds.

Every five years, he or she shall make an actuarial investigation into the mortality, service and compensation experience of the members and beneficiaries as defined by this chapter and he or she shall make a valuation, as of June thirtieth of each year, of the assets and liabilities of the various funds provided for by this chapter.

Upon the basis of such investigation such board shall: 1. Adopt for the retirement system such mortality, service and other tables as shall be deemed necessary; and 2. Certify the rates of deduction from compensation computed to be necessary to pay the annuities authorized under the provisions of this chapter.

As part of the May 29th announcement, the mayor's office described Ms. Chan's work load as follows:
As Chief Actuary, Chan will work for the five major actuarially-funded New York City Retirement Systems, including the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS), the New York City Police Pension Fund, and the New York Fire Department Pension Fund.

The Chief Actuary also serves as the legally-designated technical advisor to the Board of Trustees of the New York City Retirement Systems (NYCRS).

The Office of the Actuary is responsible for determining employer contributions and funded status for NYCRS, preparing employer contributions for use in the development of budget and financial plans, certifying benefits for retiring employees, and preparing financial reports and accounting information on the New York City Health Benefits Program.

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