On HOOPP's 400,000+ Strong Members

HOOPP put out a press release today stating its pension plan for Ontario healthcare workers is now 400,000 members strong:

The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) is proud to announce it has surpassed 400,000 members, helping to deliver retirement security across a diverse membership of healthcare workers. This includes groups who often don’t have access to affordable retirement savings plans, such as part-time workers.

“HOOPP is proud to serve the healthcare community, especially during these challenging times,” said Steven McCormick, Senior Vice President, Plan Operations. “Our members are on the front lines of the pandemic and we thank them for all they do. We at HOOPP are honoured to play a small part in supporting our healthcare heroes, by continuing to deliver on our pension promise to them.”

HOOPP’s membership growth has accelerated in recent years. In 2003, we crossed the 200,000 mark and saw a steady increase in membership over the next 12 years, surpassing 300,000 members by 2015. And, in just the last five years, our membership grew by an additional 100,000 members due to the growing healthcare sector and more employers in Ontario offering the Plan to their employees. We also made it possible for part-time workers to join the Plan immediately, without a waiting period, and welcomed 12,000 new members following the merger of five plans with HOOPP in 2019.

HOOPP’s membership includes more than 250,000 active members, 115,000 retired members, and 35,000 deferred members. The average new annual pension is $29,700. HOOPP is fully funded, and has the honour of delivering on the pension promise to a membership that is large and diverse:

  • 82% of members are women
  • 34% of members are part-timers
  • Largest cohort of active members is 30-34

Ivana Zanardo, Vice President, Client Services, said: “We know that women, part-time workers and younger adults often don’t have access to good pensions, so we’re pleased to offer a plan that supports Ontario’s healthcare sector and does so among those who too often find themselves without a secure retirement. For all that our members have to worry about these days, they can at least be confident knowing they have a more secure future with a HOOPP pension.”

HOOPP operates efficiently, which benefits its members. The Plan’s operating cost is one of the lowest in the pension industry, representing 0.29% of net assets. This allows HOOPP to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the Plan while also maximizing how much it can offer members, including benefits such as free accrual to disabled members for up to four years.

HOOPP is also pleased to be by members’ sides for a long time. Ninety-five of HOOPP’s retired members are older than 100. These members contributed to their pension, and benefit from HOOPP’s ability to pay pensions for life. This supports them and their families and avoids situations where they might otherwise become dependent on loved ones or government for support.

“So many of our members lead long and selfless lives caring for others, and it’s an honour to be there to support them,” said McCormick. “Times may change, but HOOPP’s mission remains the same. We are here to pay lifetime pensions to our members and deliver on our promise, now and for decades to come.”

About the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan

HOOPP serves Ontario’s hospital and community-based healthcare sector, with more than 610 participating employers. Its membership includes nurses, medical technicians , food services staff, housekeeping staff, and many others who provide valued healthcare services. In total, HOOPP has more than 400,000 active, retired and deferred members.

HOOPP operates as a private independent trust, governed by a Board of Trustees with a sole fiduciary duty to deliver on the pension promise. The Board is jointly governed by the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) and four unions: the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The unique governance model provides representation from both management and workers in support of the long-term interests of the Plan.

Earlier today, I had a chance to talk with Ivana Zanardo, Vice President, Client Services at HOOPP.

Let me first thank her for taking the time to talk to me and also thank James Geuzebroek, Senior Manager, Media and Public Affairs for setting the call up.

Ivana is extremely nice, articulate, and very focused on member services. She's exactly the type of person you want as a VP, Client Services as her focus is 100% on servicing HOOPP's members.

In fact, here she is, I asked James to kindly provide a head shot of her:

HOOPP is very lucky to have her and other dedicated people focusing exclusively on member services.

Ivana told me when the pandemic hit, they shifted seamlessly to working remotely and continued servicing their members, answering all their questions and providing them with assistance whenever needed.

Recall, I already wrote a comment on HOOPP's successful IT journey where I discussed how Reno Bugiardini, HOOPP’s Senior VP, Information Technology and Facilities Services, and his team sprung into action to deal with the pandemic and have everyone work remotely.

Reno talked about investments and member services. Pension plans like HOOPP, Ontario Teachers', OMERS, OPTrust and CAAT Pension have members, retired and active members with lots of questions and they need to be serviced properly. 

That responsibility lies squarely with Steven McCormick, Senior Vice President, Plan Operations, who I spoke with last September when I went over interesting research HOOPP commissioned on Canadian retirement security and the pandemic.

Ivana works with Steven focusing on client services.

She told me they are first and foremost "very proud" to help Ontario's healthcare workers as they are on the front line dealing with the pandemic. "We want to give them reassurance that their pensions are being well managed and that we are there to answer all their questions."

She understands the demographics of the plan very well, and reiterated what was stated in the press release above:

HOOPP’s membership includes more than 250,000 active members, 115,000 retired members, and 35,000 deferred members. The average new annual pension is $29,700. HOOPP is fully funded, and has the honour of delivering on the pension promise to a membership that is large and diverse:

  • 82% of members are women
  • 34% of members are part-timers
  • Largest cohort of active members is 30-34

It's important to note HOOPP is a younger plan than Ontario Teachers' (ratio of active to retired members is higher), its discount rate is a bit higher than Teachers' (they both use very low discount rates, sub 5%) and they both practice liability driven investing (read my interview with HOOPP's new CEO, Jeff Wendling, on LDI 2.0 in a zero bound world). 

The key difference between HOOPP and OTPP and OMERS is the latter two are older and larger plans and are more diversified across public and private markets, including infrastructure which HOOPP is just entering.  

Anyway, Ivana Zanardo talked a lot about the link between retirement security and the overall well-being of its members and other members with a DB plan have.

She referred to the study HOOPP commissioned and noted the following:

  • 79% of Canadians would rather their employer make pension contributions than receive that money as salary. Remarkably, this percentage was the same, even for Canadians who said their finances were negatively impacted by COVID-19 “a great deal.”
  • 74% would accept a slightly lower salary in exchange for a better (or any) pension plan.

HOOPP's members know all about the Value of a Good Pension, they've been enjoying a solid DB pension managed by a world class organization for years.

In fact, HOOPP's employees and senior managers invest in HOOPP's pension plan as they too get a defined benefit plan, ensuring alignment of interests with their members.

But the important point I want to stress here is that most of HOOPP's members are women, a third of them are working part time, so they are very lucky to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from a defined benefit pension managed by HOOPP.

Also, as stated in the press release, the average new annual pension is $29,700, some are getting more, some less, but this most definitely helps its members plan for their retirement. 

Interestingly, I told Ivana a lot of retired nurses and doctors in Quebec came out of retirement to help hospitals coping with the onslaught of COVID patients (I know of one retired nurse who came out of retirement to do contact tracing and unfortunately got COVID but thankfully, after a brief hospital stay, she is fine now).

Ivana told me the same thing happened in Ontario and they helped answer some of the questions their retired members had before coming out of retirement to help their communities (some had to suspend their pensions temporarily or forgo them for the time they are working part time, but she couldn't give me exact figures as that's between employers like hospitals and employees).

Anyway, I really enjoyed my discussion with Ivana Zanardo, Vice President, Client Services at HOOPP. It reminded me of something I tend to forget and gloss over too often in my blog comments, namely, pension plans aren't just about investing pension contributions, they are first and foremost about servicing members.

Lest we forget, behind every pension, there is a person, and in the case of Ontario's healthcare workers and teachers, both of which I consider front line workers, as well as many municipal employees, they are all lucky to have their pensions managed by world class organizations.

And Ontario's citizens are all lucky these front line workers are working to help address essential services during the pandemic. Let's make sure we are all doing our part to help them (you know what I mean, don't need to lecture you!).

Below, Ivana Zanardo of HOOPP and Alex Mazer of Common Wealth hosted a webinar with panelists Elizabeth Mulholland of Prosper Canada, Eleanor Marshall of Bell Canada and Renée Légaré of The Ottawa Hospital to discuss the financial implications of COVID-19 for Canada’s workforce and how employers can support their employees, while also creating greater long-term business value for their organization. Take the time to watch this, it's very interesting.