The State of Wisconsin Investment Board Appoints Its Next Chief

Edwin Denson has been appointed to build on the legacy of late CIO David Villa.

Edwin Denson (courtesy photo)

Edwin Denson

(courtesy photo)

The State of Wisconsin Investment Board has appointed a new executive director and chief investment officer to manage the state’s $143 billion pension fund.

Edwin Denson, SWIB’s managing director of asset and risk allocation, has been tapped for the role, the retirement system announced Friday. Denson joined SWIB in 2018 and also serves on the fund’s management council. His appointment comes after the passing of long-time CIO David Villa in February.

“SWIB is fortunate to have someone with Edwin’s talent and experience, who is ready to take on this leadership role,” David Stein, chair of the SWIB board of trustees, said in a statement. “He combines a deep understanding of SWIB’s innovative investment strategy with a wealth of expertise in both public and private sector asset management.”

Villa, who had led the fund since 2006, including taking over the executive director role in 2018, left behind a legacy of prudence and forward thinking. In 2018, Villa recieved a Lifetime Achievement Award at Institutional Investor’s Hedge Fund Industry Awards in part for his campaign to mitigate the rising costs of outside managers by employing more in-house asset management.

“I felt lucky to have known David for almost 20 years and to have worked closely with him again over the last few,” Denson said in the press release. “Now, I am eager to build on his vision, strategy and direction for the agency as we continue to create a world-class investment management organization.”

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Throughout his time at SWIB, Denson has more than doubled the asset and risk allocation staff in order to “build out innovative investment strategies” for the Wisconsin Retirement System, according to the press release. Before joining SWIB, Denson worked as a managing director and head of strategic titling at Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Before joining CPPIB in 2013, Denson worked in asset allocation, currency, and risk management as a portfolio manager at William Blair & Company, a managing member at Singer Partners LLC, and a managing director and head of asset allocation at UBS Global Asset Management, according to the press release. Denson spent his early career as an economist at Lehman Brothers, Primark Decision Economics, and Putnam Investments.

“The board has been engaged in succession planning for a number of years,” Stein said. “With Edwin at the helm, we can take advantage of SWIB’s continued momentum, build on our ongoing success, support the current culture, and continue our key strategic priorities, including to recruit top talent and retain our award-winning staff.”