Since 2011, Aon Hewitt global retirement solutions leader Ari Jacobs has advised General Motors Co. and Verizon Communications on the two biggest pension risk transfer deals in U.S. history. Combined, the two transactions totaled $36 billion. After New Yorkbased Verizon and Detroit-based GM decided to reduce their pension liabilities, they hired consulting firm Aon Hewitt to study options. Norwalk, Connecticutbased Jacobs, 42, considered not just the economics for the companies themselves and which alternatives made the most sense but also what various options would mean for participants benefits and the portfolios asset allocation. The Tufts University mathematics graduate began working with big pension plans in the mid-1990s at Aon Hewitts predecessor, Hewitt Associates. In 2007, Jacobs left for Citigroup, where he built one of the first groups that would see banks buy pension plans from corporations. He was keen to capitalize on the trend of companies wanting to transfer liabilities off their balance sheets, but as the economy tanked and Citi took a federal government bailout, such a business was no longer viable within a bank. Jacobs rejoined Hewitt in 2009 to tackle the same problem from a different perspective. Now, after the GM and Verizon transactions, he says, Im engaging in these types of pension risk transfer discussions with companies all the time.
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