TSP Board Needs to ‘Get A Lot Smarter’

By Eric Katz

June 24, 2013

Officials charged with overseeing the Thrift Savings Plan have pitched an initiative to conduct extensive research into improving the relationship between TSP and its participants and beneficiaries.

The proposal -- put forth by the executive director’s office at a Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board meeting Monday -- would serve as an addendum to the agency’s five-year strategic plan. Under the new plan, TSP would bolster communications efforts -- through focus groups and surveys, for example -- and develop operational improvements, such as measuring service quality and exploring the merits of expanded TSP options.

In making these proposals, officials stressed the need to conduct adequate research to ensure the appropriate changes and decisions are made.

“Before we can decide what the new participant experience might be, we must first enhance our decision intelligence,” said Renee Wilder, director of the Enterprise Planning Office. “We have to get a lot smarter.”

Wilder said the initiative would be a two-year effort, with results in time for the next five-year strategic plan, scheduled for 2015. The research would look into, for example, how to make forms, Web designs and education tools more customer friendly. It would help the board -- which has expanded dramatically since 2012, seeing a 50 percent increase in staff -- determine which skills it must hire in the future.

FRTIB’s executive office hopes to improve and build on the use of metrics and analytic data. The board expects the research to provide a “roadmap for re-casting the participant experience.”

The cost of the initiative has not yet been measured, and Executive Director Gregory Long and his staff cannot move forward without approval from the five-member, Senate-confirmed board.

“I think conceptually it sounds good, but at least from my perspective, I’m not sure I’m ready to give you the green light to push forward,” said Michael Kennedy, the board chairman. Kennedy and his colleagues agreed to have a private conversation to discuss the merits of the plan.

Long emphasized that he was only asking for permission to move to the next step, not for final approval.

“You have a chance to kill this today, if you say you do not approve of the concept,” he explained. “You will also have the chance to kill it when we get to the budget time [in August].” 

(Image via wrangler/Shutterstock.com)

By Eric Katz

June 24, 2013