CSIF aims for benefit transparency
The Canton of Zurich Civil Service Insurance Fund (CSIF), prides itself on the clear and accessible way in which it communicates with its members. “The broad information, the transparency and efficiency of the insurance and investment services over the last few years make us believe that the CSIF belongs to one of the most professional public pension funds in Switzerland,” says Daniel Gloor, head of asset management at CSIF.
In order to give members easy access to comprehensive information about their pension scheme, the CSIF runs a website where leaflets can be downloaded in both Word and PDF format. Each leaflet presents several frequently-asked-questions, giving answers in simple terms.
Leaflets on pension savings include topics such as: acceptance into the fund, buying extra retirement benefits, divorce, leaving the CSIF, transfer of funds, and how a reduced level of employment affects pensions. Those on insurance benefits include information on: benefits for surviving dependants, benefits for disabled members, redundancy, death benefits and pensions for partners. Finally, the leaflets on mortgages for beneficiaries include info on: guidelines for withdrawal of funds and using pensions as security for a loan.
In the run up to the change from a defined benefit (DB) plan to a defined contribution plan, a change that took place in 2000, the CSIF published four special six-monthly bulletins to inform its members of the changes which were about to take place.
Each bulletin was designed to be informative and easy to understand, and led with a letter from Rolf Huber, head of the CSIF. In principle the bulletins are kept ‘light’, but each one ends with a photo and profile of a member of the CSIF staff.
Again, this year, another bulletin was sent out to make members aware of the upcoming change in the savings deposits model and the conversion rates due to the changing economic environment and a need to counterbalance the effects of increasing life expectancy.
According to the fund it is concentrating its main efforts on steadily improving the services for its beneficiaries, in the increasingly demanding pension fund business.
Scheme members are provided with regular statements of insurance, in the form of a letter, which sets out information such as the employer and employee’s current contribution level, monthly and annual pension benefits to be expected at all ages between 60 and 65, and any savings which are held with the scheme.
Employees of the Canton of Zurich are eligible to join the CSIF if they earn more than SFr24,720 (e17,000) a year. It is only those who are on employment contracts of less than three months who are excluded, or those for whom the employment is a second job and who have mandatory insurance in their primary job or who are self-employed.
The CSIF exists to offer its members and their dependants protection against loss of income as a result of retirement, invalidity, death or redundancy after the age of 50.
Employers bear 60% of the cost of contributions, with employees meeting the remaining 40%. The CSIF uses a portion of the total contributions to finance insurance benefits in cases of death and invalidity, while the rest of member contributions are paid into individual savings accounts to finance retirement benefits.
On retirement, the scheme allows members the option of taking up to half of the pension capital accumulated as a cash lump sum. The scheme also permits members who entered the plan at a later stage to make additional contributions, bringing their benefits towards the level of those enjoyed by longer-standing members.
Not only spouses of pension scheme members, but also their unmarried partners – including same-sex partners – are eligible for surviving dependants’ benefits. Benefits for partners are the same as those for spouses.
As part of the services offered by the CSIF, scheme members have the opportunity of withdrawing part or all of their total pension savings to buy their own house or flat. The funds can either be used to pay the purchase price for a property, to pay off an existing mortgage or to pay for improvements that increase the value of the property.
As well as this, members have the opportunity to use their pension assets as collateral on a loan to buy a home.