Chief Of Colorado PERA To Step Down

Pension: Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association

Assets Managed: $39 billion (Dec. 31, 2010)

Private Equity & Venture Allocation: 8.8 percent (Dec. 31, 2010)

Private Equity & Venture Assets: $3.4 billion (Dec. 31, 2010)

Target Private Equity & Venture Allocation: 7%

Chief Investment Officer: Jennifer Paquette

Meredith Williams, the executive director of Colorado’s $39 billion pension system, will step down at the end of June after 12 years in the role, according to a pension spokeswoman. The Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association’s board will next meet on April 18 to discuss next steps, but has yet to name an interim chief.

Williams played a key role in helping push through legislation in 2010 that aimed to put the state’s pension system on a more solid financial footing. Previously, a pension actuary had forecast that the system would run out of money within 30 years. The pension is now on a path toward full funding over the same period, the spokeswoman said, but the new path comes at the cost of higher contribution rates and later retirement dates.

In a statement, Carole Wright, PERA’s board chairwoman, said: “For over a decade, Meredith has provided member-focused leadership at Colorado PERA. His transition … is bittersweet.”

Among U.S. pensions, Colorado is an average-sized investor in private equity. The state’s current allocation to alternatives (private equity and venture capital) is 8.8 percent, or about $3.4 billion in invested capital. That is above the state’s 7 percent target allocation. Of that, $1.5 billion is in conventional buyouts, $1.1 billion is in venture capital, and $773 million is in special situations.

Jennifer Paquette is Colorado PERA’s chief investment officer.

One recent development is that the state issued a request for proposals to manage the pension’s “New Colorado Fund,” a new $25 million to $50 million pool that will be invested in Colorado-based businesses.

As for investment returns, the state has struggled in recent years. During the 10-year period ending on Dec. 31, 2010, the system had average annual returns of 3.5 percent, well below the state’s 8 percent actuarial reference rate.

Upon leaving PERA, Williams will become executive director of the Sacramento, Calif.-based National Council on Teacher Retirement, which calls itself an “association dedicated to safeguarding the integrity of public retirement systems.”

Williams is the latest pension chief to step down among the nation’s largest pensions.  Other recent executive director changes include the heads of the Texas Teachers’ Retirement System, the New Mexico Public Employees’ Retirement Association and the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.