‘We will continue to make tweaks’: FRTIB responds to feedback after TSP update

Thrift Savings Plan participants saw a major TSP update on June 1. Now six months later, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board shared progress, ongoing...

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It’s been six months since Thrift Savings Plan participants saw major changes in the online My Account platform, when the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board transitioned to a new TSP recordkeeping system.

It may be an understatement to say that the final launch of TSP’s multi-year modernization project, known as “Converge,” was bumpy. Many TSP participants voiced their frustrations and concerns with both the board’s handling of the transition, as well as the interface itself, after the rollout.

Half a year later, though, there has been “significant improvement” in some of the most troublesome areas of the transition, according to FRTIB’s Director of External Affairs Kim Weaver. Those initial issues included technical and security problems for users when they first tried setting up new logins, causing an influx of calls to ThriftLine, the TSP customer service center — and ultimately leading to hours-long wait times to speak with a representative.

It now takes an average of just 20 seconds for a caller to ThriftLine to speak with a representative — a major advancement since the average two-hour wait time over the summer, when calls to ThriftLine were at their peak.

“The overall customer satisfaction is roughly 86% at the call centers now, so I think you can say [that] is a dramatic improvement over June and July, when we couldn’t say the same thing,” Weaver said in an interview with Federal News Network. “Our ability to handle the call volume in June and July was challenging to say the least.”

Although call center issues have subsided, some participants had concerns about long-term changes in the system. Many have said they’re not satisfied with the new layout of My Account — they said it’s often harder to find what they’re looking for. One commonly cited issue was that it’s difficult to locate the popular annuity calculator, whereas it was much easier to find it on the legacy platform.

“They made the site impossible to navigate and find pertinent information. They made it impossible to contact them without picking up the phone. And they removed all account historical information,” one TSP participant said in a recent email to Federal News Network.

A few participants who had issues with certain requests to TSP — such as trying to withdraw funds or requesting required minimum distributions (RMDs) — said it took weeks to get them resolved, when they were initially told it would only take a few days. Others still told Federal News Network that trying to locate transaction statements in the new system is “kludgy,” and that statements in the new interface aren’t as useful as they were in system prior to the update.

But the board said it’s listening to these concerns and making adjustments to the My Account platform when needed, to help participants better access what they’re looking for.

“We’ve already made changes to My Account, and we will continue to make tweaks,” Weaver said. “We are responding to participant feedback.”

In one example, Weaver said the board made participants’ TSP balance more immediately visible when they log into My Account. After the update, participants initially had to scroll down the page to see their overall balance, but now, that number is listed right when they enter the site.

Along with ongoing tweaks, the transition also means participants need to adjust to a brand-new system — and that takes time.

“Getting used to any new system is not easy,” Weaver said. “I don’t want to diminish anyone’s frustration, because it is a huge frustration when you have to deal with that sort of thing. But we are doing our best to try and respond to people’s feedback so that we can make it easier for them.”

There are other permanent changes, too. Notably, historical data isn’t readily available in My Account anymore — but the board has said that is intentional, and not something that’s likely to change, either. The decision was a balance between how many people access that information, versus the cost and security of having that information readily available for all participants.

“We looked at how many people actually looked at historical data on the previous recordkeeping platform, and it just wasn’t that many people,” Weaver said. “Moving over all those records and keeping them as live data that participants are able to access is expensive, and also serves as a security risk.”

The data that’s readily available in the new My Account platform encompasses anything going 10 years back. If participants want to get statements even further back, they can call ThriftLine to request that the documents get mailed to them. Beyond calling ThriftLine, there are several other ways to get in touch with TSP representatives, or learn more about how to work through some of the most common transactions or issues. Participants can find more information in the TSP app, or by asking their questions through chat messages to a virtual assistant. There are also a host of webinars available on TSP.gov to help participants.

Ultimately, though, the changes to My Account, and to TSP overall, are intended to match with an increasingly digital world, Weaver said. Now, about 90% of TSP is self-service — what the board has said participants were looking to have more of in TSP services.

“That means that people are able to do the transactions that they want to do on their own time. We are seeing people taking advantage of that more and more,” Weaver said. “It used to be previously that you could do [transactions online] up to a certain point, and then you’d have to print out a hard copy form and mail it in … More of the transactions are now able to be done completely online.”

The work in “fine-tuning” the new TSP will continue, as will the board’s relationship with Accenture Federal Services, the federal contractor in charge of the new TSP recordkeeping system.

“The contractor apologized. We were certainly very apologetic. The first few months were not what any of us wanted for that transition, but it has improved. We are processing loans, we’re processing withdrawals. We know there are a small subset of participants who are still having trouble. And we are focused on figuring out what’s causing that, if there’s a root cause, and trying to correct it, so people don’t have those problems going forward,” Weaver said.


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