A pension system veteran is leaving the Illinois for the sunny climate of Arizona. James Hacking gave notice on June 10 that he will be resigning as executive director of the Illinois State Universities Retirement System (SURS). He will leave in August to begin a new job as director of the Arizona Public Safety Retirement System in Phoenix.
Hacking describes the move to Arizona as one that presents a new challenge and cites his growing frustration with the Illinois state government as one of the issues that propelled him to accept Arizona’s offer. “Basically all of my time and attention is engaged in the struggle to get the state to give the system the funding it requires,” said Hacking. “That has become a full time job and annually repeating challenge.”
While the funds managed by the Arizona Public Retirement System were less than half that of the capital under management of Illinois SURS, Arizona’s funds are 90% funded or better. “Illinois has one of the lowest funding ratios of the better public systems in the country and we have the largest unfunded liability of any state in the nation,” Hacking says. “The aggregate unfunded liability is in excess of $35 billion.”
Hacking has been with Illinois SURS since 1996. Prior to joining Illinois SURS, Hacking directed the Minnesota Public Employees Retirement System and the Minneapolis Employees Retirement Fund. Hacking is credited with being a reformer who restores credibility to pension systems, as he entered both the Minnesota and Illinois pension systems when they were engulfed in misappropriation and embezzlement scandals.
He says that by the time he departs SURS the system will have selected the executive search firm that will eventually find his replacement. In the meantime, general counsel and deputy executive director Dan Slack will serve as interim executive director.
SURS has approximately $13.3 billion under management and 3.4% or about $452 million, in private equity. According to Thomson Venture Economics (publisher of Buyouts), SURS is a limited partner in funds managed by buyout firms Madison Dearborn Partners, Oaktree Capital Management and Summit Partners and venture capital firms Austin Ventures, Enterprise Partners, Three Arch Partners and U.S. Venture Partners.