With most of our team homeworking for the majority of 2020, many NESPF staff members had their long-awaited introduction to the new office. Not only does the office provide an increased space allowing us to safely adhere to social distancing rules, it also offers scope for us to hold internal meetings and events, which we eagerly anticipate hosting at a point in the future when safe.
In investment news, investment returns over the last year have been very strong, with a bounce back in valuations as optimism of coming out of lockdown and an economic recovery gathered momentum. Investment performance has been outstanding with the average across all asset classes for the last 12 months being calculated as 22.5% against a benchmark of 17.9%. The value of assets held within the NESPF was £6,156 million as at June 2021.
In terms of Fund administration, it was business as usual in 2021 as the team quickly adapted to new practices in the COVID-19 work environment. The Fund continued to prioritise the payment of pensions to our 25,000 pensioner members. This year saw pensioner membership increase dramatically following a change to regulations which allows members to access their pension from age 55 onwards. Active membership also grew, and the Fund now has over 26,000 members paying into their pension every month.
As the Fund strived to keep any disruption to customer service to a minimum during the pandemic, we encouraged members to make use of the online resources available on the Fund’s website and My Pension portal.
During the summer months, the Fund issued over 37,000 benefit statements, with more members now accessing their statement via our online My Pension tool. My Pension users increased to over 43,000, with an average of around 3,000 new users accessing the site each month during 2021. This is a greatly useful tool from an administration perspective, with over 3,000 calculations being automatically performed on My Pension each month, meaning members could have pension figures without delay and staff could focus their attention on assisting in other member queries.
The NESPF website had over 28,000 users access information with over 1,000 site searches performed during 2021. With a pause on in-person visits to our office, our team answered 5,700 calls since April and nearly 16,000 emails.
Later in the year, the Fund was thrilled to be shortlisted for 4 awards, in the categories of both administration and overall Fund performance.
As we look ahead to 2022, the Fund hopes to be able to continue to build upon its successes of 2021, with an administration review already underway and plans to further expand our team, it looks set to be another busy year.