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Tuesday - 10/21/2008, 3:43pm EDT
How have the computer systems of the Thrift Savings Plan handled the volatility of the stock market?
Perhaps more importantly -- how did TSP participants fare?
These were the two questions that were top of mind at Monday's TSP board meeting.
On Tuesday's Daily Debrief, hosts Christopher Dorobek and Amy Morris spoke with Director of External Relations Tom Trabucco, who says the board members examined both questions closely.
Our director of automated systems talked about the interfund transfer requests that were put in. We did have a big day on Friday with 26,000 interfund requests received and processed. That's our fourth largest day in history.
Trabucco says, for the most part the computers held up.
There were a couple of points in the morning where it was a little bit slow -- and as you know [with] a computer, when it's slow, it times out. So, only 92.5 percent of the requests were getting through on the first request, but then you could come right back in and click on that page again.
The TSP has been in the middle of a systems modernization project for over a year. Trabucco says it's not quite done, but they're getting there.
As our IT guy explained yesterday, Friday was what he called a "two X event" -- two times what we would normally deal with and [the system] got a little slow. What he's planning for is being able to handle a "four X" event and that's what we'll have at the end of this process.
Trabucco says the TSP is also currently working on staffing.
Of course it doesn't make sense to be staffed up so you can handle everything at the moment, because you would have a lot of capacity sitting around unused -- or in the case of our call centers, a lot of people sitting around not answering phones. So, we want to . . . strike that middle ground and as we're getting there, we are now able to handle days like Friday.
Trabucco says there are still options for fund participants who can't get through via the Internet. They could, as he said earlier, simply try making their request again after a time-out or they could call the Thrift Line and make a transfer with the touch-tone keypad.
In addition, there are participant representatives standing by to assist, though Trabucco warns this is not necessarily the fastest way to work on days like Friday.
We also had a lot of calls coming in, so there was a wait. It was [on] average about four to six minutes, I think, at the peak times, but that was manageable.
There are two call centers now that each have staggered hours for staff and take calls on an alternating basis. This, Trabucco says, allows the TSP to accept calls for a longer period of time during the day and make sure the wait for participants isn't as stressful.
The TSP also opened its call center doors on Columbus Day, despite it being a federal holiday.
Overall, Trabucco says the board concluded that its systems are working pretty well.
For those folks who are anxious this is a gut-check time. If you simply cannot handle volatility -- if it just makes you too anxious, the G fund is there -- always -- for you.
Trabucco reminds participants that the limited fund transfer rule that was recently enacted doesn't apply to moving money into the G fund.
In addition, he has another suggestion -- one he practices on a regular basis.
I check my account to make sure contributions are going in . . . but I just don't look at the balance.
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