Im doing missionary work, says David Villa of his recent trip to Amsterdam to speak at the Fiduciary Investors Symposium. CIO of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board since 2005, when he left the same post at the Florida State Board of Administration, Villa, 59, keeps busy overseeing some $85 billion in retirement assets for 424,000 workers and retirees. But his second job is spreading the word about the uniquely effective design of the Madison-based pension system. Unlike its liability-laden counterparts in states like Connecticut and Illinois, the system is fully funded thanks to its adjustable pension plan, whose benefits fluctuate with the investment portfolios annual performance. Wisconsin also stands apart for never having skipped its required contributions or dipped into the pension trust to plug state budget holes. Even Governor Scott Walker, no friend of public sector unions, has admitted to Institutional Investor that the state system is one of the countrys best. Villa who grew up in New Mexico and has an MBA from Northwestern University has commissioned and coauthored a forthcoming academic study that evaluates different retirement systems. The surprise of the research, he explains, is that a defined benefit plan is a very effective structure for replacing income in retirement if you discount the liability at a rate of return less than your investment return.
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