CAA South Central Ontario will share the lessons learned during its transition to a defined contribution pension plans at the 2017 Benefits and Pension Summit in Toronto on April 11-12.

The organization transitioned to a defined contribution arrangement in 2013. In the following three years, the organization focused on the defined contribution plan it introduced for its existing members but it has also moved to reach defined benefit pension members who left the organization. The session will look at the transition from these two different perspectives, says Mara Notarfonzo, director of human resources operations and total rewards at CAA South Central Ontario.

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“Here’s an opportunity for us to go and look at everybody who has left the organization and deferred the pension and left it in the pension plan so that they can start accessing the money when they retire,” she says. “Let’s reach out to them and see if they would like to receive a payout.”

Isabelle Landry, national practice leader in communication consulting at Morneau Shepell Ltd., who will also speak at the session, says the CAA South Central Ontario experience shows how plan sponsors should seek to reach all pension members, regardless of which pension they’re in.

“A lot of organizations go DC and then say, ‘OK, we’re going to focus on telling them how to invest their money,’ and the DB members will fall a little bit by the wayside and you lose the engagement factor of the pension plan,” she says. “And you have these people who have left the organization who might not feel equipped to make their decisions.”

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What it all comes down to, according to both Notarfonzo and Landry, is how employers reach out to members about both pension plans. “I always say, regardless of whether it’s pensions or benefits or anything else . . . you could have a fantastic plan, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t communicate it properly,” says Notarfonzo.

“Pension plans and benefit plans, there are a business reason that they are there,” adds Landry. “You want to attract, you want to retain, you want to engage your people. And it almost seems like sometimes, the plans take on a life of their own and exist for the sake of being a plan that exists . . .. I really hope that’s what participants get out of this, to remember that communication is a huge lever that they can use.”

Notarfonzo and Landry will be speaking at the Benefits and Pensions Summit on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. Check out the group benefits and pension sessions on the agenda and register for the conference by the upcoming early-bird deadline.

Copyright © 2022 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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