2023 Public Pension Compensation Survey: Mid- and Senior-Level Staffing Trends
The results of the 2023 Public Pension Compensation Survey suggest the industry has made some progress with recruitment and retention efforts.
By: Lizzy Lees, Director of Communications, NCPERS
Recognizing the unique challenges that pension funds face with recruitment and retention, NCPERS developed the annual Public Pension Compensation Survey to help pension funds benchmark compensation and benefits packages against their peers and ensure key positions are filled with skilled and qualified staff.
Following the success of last year's inaugural survey—which focused on nine c-suite positions—NCPERS partnered again with the non-profit research firm Cobalt Community Research to develop the 2023 Public Pension Compensation Survey. This year's survey focused on mid- and senior-level positions at public retirement systems. We received 176 responses to the survey, with data representing 425 public employee retirement systems.
In addition to the report, the data are presented online in an interactive dashboard created in Tableau. Funds are able to filter data in a number of ways to help optimize the mix of funds to which they would like to compare themselves. Filters include elements such as type of participants served, size of fund by participant, number of systems administered, number of fund staff, number of fund investment staff, and how assets are managed. In addition, each position can also be filtered by assets, tenure, full time/part time, and if the position has multiple roles. Based on feedback from the pilot study, we've also added the option to filter by state(s) to further refine comparisons.
The report have been made available at no cost to all survey participants. Survey participants that are NCPERS members also have access to the dashboard. If you didn't participate in the 2023 survey but are interested in purchasing it, please complete this form and return to email@example.com.
NCPERS hosted a webinar on October 17 to preview the 2023 survey findings and discuss broader hiring trends and creative strategies that smaller plans are implementing to attract and retain quality staff.
The results of the 2023 Public Pension Compensation Survey suggest the industry has made some progress with recruitment and retention efforts. Approximately 42 percent of respondents indicated they are having no problems attracting and retaining skilled staff, up from 38 percent in the previous year.
Lead researcher William SaintAmour noted that investment-focused positions, such as private equity and public equity portfolio managers, received the highest median salaries and bonuses. Conversely, positions like the Director of Customer Service had lower salaries and bonuses. Traditional benefits such as health plans, dental and vision coverage, defined benefit plans, and life insurance were found to be widespread. Consistent with the 2022 survey results, flexible and remote work continue to be popular benefits, he said, with approximately 54 percent of respondents providing these options to staff.
Fellow webinar panelists Tyler Grossman, executive director of the El Paso Firemen and Policemen's Pension Fund, and Dan Cummings, executive vice president and managing director of EFL, agreed that flexibility and remote work are highly valued benefits today that can help funds stay competitive. Grossman added that his organization has been offering a 4/10 schedule—Monday through Thursday with 10-hour days—since 2013. This helps accommodate fire and policemen's graveyard shifts while giving staff added flexibility. They've maintained a remote-first, hybrid schedule as well, he added.
Turning to recruitment strategies, Cummings suggested pension funds consider implementing internship programs to support their talent pipelines. He also emphasized the importance of ‘mission alignment' or exploring talent pools with previous public sector or service-oriented work experience. Grossman said his fund encourages staff retention by promoting from within, offering opportunities for tuition reimbursement, and frequently evaluating pay levels to stay competitive.
Wrapping up the webinar, moderator Hank Kim, executive director and counsel for NCPERS, shared additional insights into the short- and long-term goals of the survey. Most immediately, he said, the goal is to bring transparency and insight into compensation and benefits packages at state and local pension plans. The second, but more long-term goal, is to help policymakers, taxpayers, and the media understand that public sector pensions should not be viewed as just another state or local agency. “It is more akin to a financial services entity than a pure government agency and, as a result, compensation for public plans may need to be looked at with a different lens. We want to show policymakers and the public what resources plans need in order to attract and retain high-functioning and qualified staff,” he said.
Watch the webinar recording here, and find out how to order your copy of the Public Pension Compensation Survey.