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Other than telephone use, SDRS gets strong marks

PIERRE -- Employees at the South Dakota Retirement System deal personally with every member, beneficiary or employer who has a question or wants advice or is making a change.

A recent review by an outside evaluator found that expenses are perhaps higher than necessary because of it.

But that didn't appear to bother the system's trustees or their chief administrator, Rob Wylie.

SDRS staff reported fielding 19,842 incoming phone calls in 2013. With more than 77,000 members, contacts from members increase every year.

Wylie said he has no intention of switching to an automated system.

"We believe our personalized services helps members through a complex transition in their lives," Wylie said. "The level of individualized service we provide to each member and employer only emphasizes our commitment to South Dakota's public employees."

SDRS officials constantly have comparisons underway with other public pension plans throughout the nation regarding costs, performance and customer service.

Those reports routinely show SDRS as one of the best-run public systems. It's also one of the strongest-funded systems when the long-term performance of the South Dakota Investment Council is considered.

Wylie said that when a member or employer calls into the SDRS office, the caller is greeted by one of two receptionists.

The receptionist gathers information from the caller and directs the call to the proper department, typically either the member services department or the finance department, he said.

"Any account changes a member needs to make are routed to the proper personnel in our office," Wylie said. "Some changes can be made over the phone or online, such as address or email updates. However, some changes must be done in writing, such as beneficiary or bank account changes."