Halifax’s Union.Dev is deploying its pension-management software at a 30,000-person union in Ontario and has raised $310,000 of non-dilutive funding from NRC IRAP and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
The company’s software, dubbed the Pension Reporting System, grew out of contract work that co-founder Randy Ansems was hired to do in 2012 by a third-party company offering pension management services to unions.
“The third party administrators for the unions were typically pretty manual,” said Kevin Ansems, Union.Dev's other co-founder and Randy Ansems’s son, in an interview.
“So it's a lot of filing cabinets and paperwork. Excel spreadsheets were pretty advanced for them. So, they wanted to modernize some of their processes... This third party administrator had five or six unions under their belt that they were doing work for and had a whole team in the office, essentially processing retirements and transitions in their pension plan for each of the unions.”
In 2018, the duo decided to set out on their own and incorporated Union.Dev, bagging the Ontario pension deal shortly after.
The Pension Reporting System automates much of the work that unions have historically completed manually, such as record-keeping and payouts.
Union-run pensions are often subject to labyrinthine governance documents that have evolved piecemeal over many years and can be hundreds of pages long. Union.Dev incorporates those governance requirements into its software, offering unions a customized product tailored to their needs.
Ansems said Union.Dev’s eight-person team is largely focused on the Ontario rollout, which is slated to be finished soon, after which they will turn their attention to other projects. The company is also in early, but “exciting” talks with a union in British Columbia.
And a pair of clients in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have already signed on.
“I think once this implementation in Ontario is completely finished, then we'll be able to go to them as a testimonial, and you know, have them waving the flag and getting people really excited about it, and showing them a case study of what we're actually doing,” said Ansems.
For now, the two Ansems are focused on inking deals with blue collar trade unions, but Kevin Ansems said that the business could eventually expand to service other types of professional associations, such as nurses’ unions.
Because foreign unions and pension plans operate according to different guidelines and processes depending on their location, international expansion is shaping up to be a thorny undertaking. But union pensions in the United States are similar enough to those in Canada that Union.Dev is considering stationing an employee at an American co-working space.
The duo are also working on a second software suite, called Union OS, to digitize and automate other aspects of clerical work at unions, such as tracking membership dues.
The NRC IRAP and ACOA money will go towards funding research and development for that project — $240,000 from IRAP and $70,000 from ACOA.
So far, the Ansems have not raised equity capital; they’re aiming to book more sales first. But once they have a deeper client roster, a funding round could be the next step.
“Up until this point, we have been 100 percent self funded,” said Kevin Ansems. “So we've been bootstrapping the business for the most part through the union software stuff.
“But I think down the road, once we really get our feet under us and have a solid base, we're going to try and expedite that with some equity, maybe some strategic capital.”