My name is Sheryl Smolkin. I’m a pension and benefits lawyer and journalist. Today I’m continuing our series of interviews with the people behind the scene at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. I’m talking to Warren Wagner, Chair of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan Board of Trustees.
Warren is currently the Regional Director for Saskatchewan of the Canadian Diabetes Association and previously for 35 years he was a Regional General Manager with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
Thank you Sheryl.
Q. Warren, what is the Board’s role in the operation of the SPP?
A. Like other pension plans we have a Board of Trustees that is responsible for insuring that the plan acts in accordance with good governance and fiduciary responsibilities. So really our responsibility is to make sure that the members of the plan have their interests protected and the goals and objectives of the plan are carried out.
Q. How are Board members appointed?
A. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Board is appointed on the recommendation of the province’s Minister of Finance. The appointments are then made by an order-in-council of the Saskatchewan government.
Q. How long is the term for each member?
Typically it is three years. Usually people serve on the Board for one or more terms, hopefully to provide their continuing experience and knowledge of the plan.
Q. The SPP is 25 years old this year. What do you think are some of the most important developments over the past 25 years?
A. Good question. First of all, I think the fact that it has been in operation for 25 years is probably one of the most important features of the plan. In the financial industry there are a lot of plans, investments and programs that have come and gone, yet the SPP has proven to be durable, fairly stable and predictable.
When you look at the plan’s history and performance over the past 25 years, the SPP has returned in excess of 8% each year with nominal management fees. So you have a plan that is strong, simple to understand, well-managed and provides the opportunity for people and small businesses in the province of Saskatchewan and beyond to invest for the future.
Q. What is the Board’s vision for the SPP over the next 25 years?
A. What we really see is the opportunity for SPP to expand on the good things it is doing for the individual contributors today but also to become the small business plan of choice going forward.
There are about 70,000 small businesses in Saskatchewan, as an example, and the majority of these do not have a pension plan for their employees. The reality is that employers would like to have something to help their employees, but they need something that is simple, easy to understand, inexpensive and a plan that is not going to require a tremendous amount of their time to administer.
We’re happy to say the SPP meets all those criteria so we think that there is an excellent opportunity for the plan to grow by providing this good pension opportunity for both individuals and small businesses.
Q. Now the contribution levels were increased at the end of 2010. Do you envisage that going forward further increases might be in the cards?
A. At this point we are still very pleased that the contribution level was increased from $600 to $2,500 a year, which is a very significant increase. We’re just in the process of digesting that at this time. However, we have had discussions internally about the need to either look for indexing of that limit or requesting a staged limit increase over the next few years.
Thanks so much for answering my questions today. I’m sure both members and prospective members will be impressed with the sound governance structure in place at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.