Positive market developments and rising discount rates helped Swiss Pensionskassen improve their funding levels by approximately 300 basis points, consultancies estimated.PKSBB, the CHF15bn (€12bn) pension fund of Swiss federal railways SBB, fared particularly well, reporting a funding level just above the 100%-mark for the first time in more than a decade.Its 101.8% funding level marked an increase of 270bps year on year and means that, for 2014, its participants will not have to pay any additional contributions as part of a recovery plan.Meanwhile, average funding levels at Swiss pension funds improved to 102.9% for pension funds in general, according to Towers Watson, or even to as high as 110.8% for private pension funds, according to Swisscanto. The Towers Watson Pension Index calculated that the funding level increased by 400bps quarter on quarter from 99.1% as reported per end-September 2013, while Swisscanto worked out an improvement of 320bps for private pension funds and 270bps for public pension funds to 102.7% year on year.A slight increase in the discount rate also helped lower liabilities and improve funding levels in turn.Within the Towers Watson sample, the discount rate improved by 16bps, while liabilities shrank by 2%.Swisscanto reported a 6.1% average rate of return for its sample, similar to the one published by Towers Watson at 6.2%.UBS calculated a similar average return at 5.89%, but the Credit Suisse index showed a slightly lower average return at 5.75%.The PKSBB is at the lower end of the spectrum, with a return of 5.4% for 2013.In a statement, the pension fund stressed that, despite the recent improvement of its funding levels, its financial buffers were still wanting.The PKSBB is one of the funds currently looking to introduce variable pensions for future pensioners to ensure sustainable, long-term financing.
After reviewing the results of last year’s annual library survey, USC Libraries has began the process of completely overhauling its website.For the past few years, the website has been one of the top five complaints from students. USC Libraries Dean Catherine Quinlan said the website was updated continually since it was last re-designed in 2009.Quinlan noted that, when the new re-design project is completed, it will be the most significant upgrade to the website in at least five years.“We realized the technological infrastructure of the website had to be completely re-done,” Quinlan said.Online · Allie Beckemeyer, a post-baccalaureate student in the premedical program, uses the university’s libraries search engine on Tuesday while studying chemistry in the Von KleinSmid Center Library. — Alexander Harsono | Daily TrojanQuinlan said the new website is projected to be up and running by December.The project aims to enable online users to search all systems and data sources at once, gaining access to all the different sources though a single search engine. However, unlike common Internet search engines, users will gain access to domains that have been reviewed and deemed legitimate by librarians.“With Google, you don’t really know what you’re getting,” Quinlan said.Re-designing and updating the website will allow users to have easier access to information and tools that already exist, according to Quinlan.“We’ve heard from pretty much everyone that it’s hard to find things and that tools are not visible,” Quinlan said.These inconsistencies with the fundamental features of the site, particularly with the search engine, stands as a major source of frustration for some users.“I type in an author or architect and gives like 10 options before the name comes,” said Norma Maldonado, a graduate student pursuing a master’s in architecture. “I think this change will help.”Not everyone feels a rehaul is necessary, however. Some students said they think the current site is adequate for research.“I use the website for doing research for my essays,” said Xiaojie Wang, an undecided freshman. “It’s pretty clear and straightforward and I can get what I want.”Other students had a different spin on the upcoming changes, saying that no improvements were needed for the site but that increased development and refinement of the site would benefit the student body in the long run.“I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Allison Begalman, a freshman majoring in screenwriting. “It’s fine right now … [but] I guess if it’s going to help people and be more accessible, then why not?”Though the website will not necessarily include any brand-new features, university libraries are looking to improve compatibility with cell phones and tablets. It’s unclear whether the site will simply be optimized for mobile platforms or if new tools, such as a smartphone app, will be considered. Wang, for one, felt such an app would make searching the libraries’ resources much simpler for students on the go.“I would love to have iPhone apps for USC Library,” Wang said. “I already have one for the Lyon Center, so it will be way more convenient to have mobile apps.”But looking at the big picture, Hugh McHarg, the associate dean of planning and communication for USC Libraries, said the project is particularly important because the website is the primary way people interact with the library’s collection services.“Constantly improving [the website] is always important to us and always a priority,” McHarg said. “We want to find a way to bring all [the library’s] resources together so the website is more consistent and accessible.”Quinlan said the new site should help students to finally be able to access the information with ease.“I’m most excited to make it easier for students to use the resources that we acquire so thoughtfully for them,” Quinlan said. “It frustrates me that we find all these resources and then people cannot find them.”