David Villa, the executive director and CIO of the $130 billion State of Wisconsin Investment Board, has died.
According to a person familiar with the fund, the cause of death was cancer.
Villa had been at SWIB since 2006, when he took over the fund’s investment strategy following a stint at Florida’s pension system. In 2018, he was also given the executive director role.
Villa was the 2018 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Institutional Investor’s Hedge Fund Industry Awards, where he was recognized for his efforts to move a larger share of the fund’s assets to in-house management and for the pension fund’s forward-thinking and robust hedge fund program.
At the time of the award, Villa protégé Dominic Garcia — then and now CIO for the state of New Mexico pension system — heralded his former boss’s efforts. “I hold up Wisconsin as a model pension system in the U.S. — and frankly, would compare them against the Canadians and the Dutch and Australians,” he said in an interview with II. “The CIO is able to manage in this robust environment and is then able to integrate in best practices across the entire portfolio, and at the end of the day produce results.”
Villa was a graduate of Princeton and an alumnus of Brinson Partners, which later became part of UBS’s asset management business.
“SWIB and the State of Wisconsin have lost a visionary leader and a devoted public servant,” David Stein, chairman of SWIB’s board of trustees, said in a statement. “For 15 years, David worked tirelessly to build an organization committed to helping Wisconsin’s public sector employees to retire in dignity.”