The National Finance Center (NFC) is losing one of its biggest customers in bits and pieces.
The federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a very big customer for the NFC located in New Orleans. NFC administers the TSP program. It provides services such as mailing out statements to investors, answering telephone queries from TSP investors around the world and maintaining the software systems that run the TSP.
Any TSP investor who has paid any attention to his TSP accounts knows that the Thrift Savings Retirement Board moved to a daily valuation system a few months ago. Investors who tried to use the system were unhappy as they could often not get information on their from the computer system. And those that tried to get the information by telephone often found the phone lines jammed as the switch was being made to the new system. All in all, it was a public relations nightmare for the folks running your TSP program.
Recently, officials of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board verbally expressed their displeasure with the service they were receiving from the Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center. The NFC is a large employer in the New Orleans area and the organization provides services for a number of federal agencies.
With this background, it is probably not a coincidence that The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has selected a company to help with running part of the TSP operations. Spherix Inc. of Beltsville, Maryland, has been selected to provide parallel call center support services to the Thrift Savings Plan. The new call center will complement current services provided by the National Finance Center.
This contract also reduces some the TSP’s reliance on NFC for some services.
The parallel call center will initially handle 20% of the current call volume and eventually handle 50% of all TSP phone traffic. A key element of the future operating plan is for each center to provide disaster recovery relief for the other. The parallel call center will provide coverage of all calls in the event of a hurricane or other emergency that affects the NFC call center operations.
The term of the contract is one year, with four one-year options which are renewable at the Board’s discretion. Service hours, which currently end each weekday at 7:00 pm ET, will be extended until 9:00 pm when the parallel call center begins operations.
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, this is the second contract that takes away some of the responsibility for the TSP program from the National Finance Center.
MATCOM International Corp. in Alexandria, Va., designed and installed the TSP’s computer program at the NFC. The company had planned to turn over maintenance to NFC employees. But, at least in part because of its unhappiness with NFC, the board has decided to let MATCOM continue to maintain the system until a new maintenance contract can be put out for bids.
And, as readers of FedSmith.com are aware, Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) has called for putting the entire TSP contract out for bids.
Despite the management issues, the TSP is often cited as a model investment vehicle. There are more than three million TSP investors so the maintenance of accounts and transactions is a major job. There is no threat to the safety of any TSP investments but it does appear than the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board is trying to assure investors get high quality service–even if they have to step on some bureaucratic toes in the process.