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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

In Brief

Gen-Xers could challenge pension systems

Baby Boomers make up a sizable portion of the U.S. population and the public-sector workforce, including municipal jobs such as road maintenance. The last of the generational cohort will soon turn 55.
By Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager

As the last members of the baby-boom generation turn 55 next year and draw closer to retirement, Millennials, the nation's youngest workers, continue to grow into the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. However, with few workers between the age groups, trustees and administrators of public pension systems could find themselves preparing to clear a retirement benefit hurdle.

The Millennial workforce isn't expected to reach the peak size of the Baby Boom labor force (66 million in 1997), according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau data. But it will still outnumber the expected peak size of their preceding generational labor cohorts, the Gen-Xers. 

As for the oldest members of the U.S. labor force, the Baby Boom generation has leveled off around 40 percent since 2008. The trend follows years of increases from 29.3 percent in 1992, according to a new issue brief published by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute. 

“The baby-boom generation has created a wave of sorts moving through the labor force over the past several decades,” states Craig Copland, a senior researcher at the institute, in the report.

In “Labor Force Participation Rates by Age and Gender and the Age and Gender Composition of the U.S. Civilian Labor Force and Adult Population,” Copland outlines implications for the future:

  • Due to the massive number of baby boomers, the segment of the labor force aged 55 and older will continue to increase but will begin to shrink as its youngest workers age into retirement.
  • The number of workers between the ages of 25 and 34 has been increasing slowly and will continue to increase as the baby-boom generation retires.
  • Having larger numbers of older and younger workers means there will be fewer numbers of workers at ages in between, which presents different (and possibly incompatible) compensation and benefit challenges.

Also, Copland says “the thought that individuals will stay in the labor force at higher and higher rates into older age in order to have more assets and/or higher Social Security benefits does not seem to be materializing for the oldest Baby Boomers.”


Allen Jones
About the Author:
Allen Jones is the communications manager for the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems. Email him at allen@texpers.org or call 713-622-8018.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Patterson Announces Retirement

Executive Director Spent 10 Years Advocating for Defined Benefits


Photo by Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager
TEXPERS Executive Director Max Patterson, right, reaches to shake the hand of Dan Collins, a board member of the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, who presented Patterson with a plaque. The IPPFA issued Patterson the plaque in appreciation of "his contributions to protect retirement security and working with the IPPFA on a national coalition." The presentation was made during TEXPERS' 29th Annual Conference held April 15-18 on South Padre Island.
By Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager

After more than 10 years as the executive director of the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems, Max Patterson is retiring.

He announced his upcoming retirement during TEXPERS’ annual membership business meeting, held April 15. The business meeting took place during the association’s yearly conference, which was held this year on South Padre Island April 15-18.

Max Patterson
Although Patterson will retire this year, a specific date is pending the association’s search for his replacement. Patterson says he hopes to retire after August but will stick around to help acclimate whomever the board hires to the executive director position.

Patterson, who turns 74 in June, says he wants to spend more time with his three youngest grandchildren and travel to Seattle to visit his son.

Paul Brown, TEXPERS president, says Patterson has led the nonprofit organization into the future.

“He has been acknowledged nationally by international pension alliance CORPaTH and state affiliates such as the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association for his dedication to public employee retirement systems,” he says.

During his time with TEXPERS, Patterson focused on enhancing the basic level training for trustees and improving the quality of education sessions offered the association’s two main conferences for its members. Among his accomplishments is his leading membership efforts to kill three different state legislative bills during the last three sessions that were detrimental to public pensions in Texas.

“I can’t take full credit,” he says. “There was a lot of help. I sort of took the lead on the effort to squash the bills. The bills were proposed during different legislative sessions. I was told we were not going to be successful because one was drafted by the chair of a major committee. We managed to stop it.”

Lately, public employee pensions have been under political scrutiny due to the underfunded status of many plans. Plans in the cities of Houston and Dallas have especially experienced problems, which made some state legislators question the viability of defined-benefits for public employees during the recent 2017 legislative session. During his time with TEXPERS, Patterson says he has seen attacks on public pensions worse than what is occurring now. However, he adds, what he is observing now is a sustained and calculated attack on public-sector retirement plans lead by multi-million dollar organizations such as the Laura and John Arnold Foundation that are hoping to dismantle public pensions and replace them with less secure, 401(k)-like contribution plans.

Patterson believes some system members have become complacent in defending public pensions from political attacks. He likens the arena of public employee pensions to a game of football.

“Our side has been playing defense,” Patterson says. “Public pension systems need to do more offensive work. If public pensions continue to play defense only, we are going to lose the game.”

He says some public pension plans are doing okay in funding their retirement systems. Those doing well, however, are failing to recognize that all of Texas' pension systems are tied together. Those plans, he says, that are struggling in the proper operations of their funds can pull all others down.

“In a football game, all it takes is one person to bring the whole team down,” Patterson says. “The players must work together to make the team stronger. With our 70-plus pension systems, all it takes is one bad or failing system to damage all the systems. Two bad systems and people start to question the viability of all the systems. When three or four bad/failing systems occur, you have the legislature seriously debating the viability of the continuation of defined-benefit systems as we know them.”

Patterson’s military background influences his management style. He spent more than 30 years in the U.S. Army Reserve including three years on active duty. Most of that time working as a counterintelligence officer. He received three Bronze Stars (two in Vietnam), the U.S. Army Commendation Medal for Valor serving in Vietnam, and the Meritorious Service Medal. He also is a lifetime member of the Reserve Officers Association.

He admires Gen. George S. Patton, the senior officer of the U.S. Army who commanded the U.S. Seventh Army in the Mediterranean and European theaters of World War II.

“Gen. Patton focused on the end goal,” Patterson says. “Get the job done. Focus on the end results and do whatever it takes.”

In addition to his military career, Patterson has worked with local retirement funds, worked for the city of Houston, and worked in various other branches of local government. His entire career has been in the public sector working in local government.

Before joining TEXPERS, he was the executive director of the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund. He joined the fund after working for the City of Houston’s finance and administration department as a deputy director. During his career with the city, he was appointed city treasurer and fiduciary on the city’s three pension funds.

Before working for the city of Houston, Patterson was an assistant city manager in Beaumont. His resume also includes working as a police chief in the town of Windsor, Connecticut. He also spent time working as a police chief in Albion, Michigan.

Also, Patterson served on the executive board of the Government Finance Officers Association and had served as an advisor to the Committee on Retirement and Benefits Administration. He is president of Texans for Secure Retirement, a nonprofit group of public employees and retirees concerned about the prospects for public and private sector employee retirement security. He also is an active member of the Galleria River Oaks Rotary Club, a Houston-area chapter of an international humanitarian service organization of business and professional leaders. And, he will soon start his third year as an assistant governor of Rotary district 5890, a role he will continue to have in retirement. The district consists of 62 clubs and more than 3,000 members.

He may be leaving TEXPERS, but Patterson doesn’t sound as if he is going to live a quiet life of retirement.

“I plan to remain active with the Rotary Club as well as with the Episcopal church I belong to,” he says. “I will continue to work with Rotary and will probably continue to work with the Texans for Secure Retirement.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Enhance Your Leadership Skills During TEXPERS' 2018 Summer Educational Forum in San Antonio

By Barbara Zlatnik, TEXPERS Associate Director of  Programs & Training

Photo by Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Conway offered leadership advice as the keynote speaker during last year's TEXPERS Summer Educational Forum in San Antonio. TEXPERS member trustees and administrators are invited back to San Antonio Aug. 12-14 to take part in the association's next forum.
TEXPERS’ annual conference may have come and gone, but there is another learning opportunity on the horizon for trustees and administrators of public employee pension systems. 

Planning is underway for the TEXPERS’ 2018 Summer Educational Forum Aug. 12-14 at The Grand Hyatt in San Antonio. Here’s a look at some of the content, speakers and networking opportunities already scheduled.

The forum’s popular roundtable discussions ask the question, “What keeps you up at night?” and invite your peers from other systems to put their heads together to help solve your problems. Five concurrent roundtables are set: Executive Directors/CIOs, Benefits, Disability, Communications and Small Fund Administration.

Also, author and speaker Beth Ziesenis is sure to become your nerdy best friend as she shows you how to put the technology at your fingertips together to make your life easier at work and home. Known for her blog, Your Nerdy Best Friend, Ziesenis will walk you through a day in the life of a technology-obsessed public employee. You'll learn how a professional nerd solves a security crisis before 10 a.m., learns to make more of a lunch hour with a set of virtual hands, saves money on software before a staff meeting and brings the team together online before the day is done. Then, in “Secret Tech Weapons for Public Employees,” Ziesenis will show you how to use free and bargain technology tools you never knew existed to work more efficiently with your teams, create professional-level graphics and wow your colleagues. This high-energy session will give you more than 30 tools that will leave people asking, "How do they do that?" You’ll discover low-cost, high-value apps and tech tools that you can start using right away.

A few more conference highlights still in development:
  • Saturday, Aug. 11 – Advanced Trustee Training
  • Sunday, Aug. 12 – Golf Tournament at The Quarry, pre-conference non-golfers workshop, Member’s dinner party with a Taste of San Antonio.
  • Monday, Aug. 13 – Keynote presentation, general sessions and breakout sessions. Also, an inspiring luncheon by keynote speaker Chad Hymas that you won’t want to miss
  • Tuesday, Aug. 14 – Roundtable discussions, sessions, and conference adjournment after lunch.

Be on the lookout for more information about TEXPERS’ Educational Forum. Click to learn more about the forum and to register.

The annual educational forum is just one of the professional development opportunities TEXPERS’ provides trustees and administrators of public employee pensions systems statewide. Visit TEXPERS.org to learn more.

Membership Notes

Membership Announcements

If you were at TEXPERS' 29th Annual Conference April 15-18 on South Padre Island, we hope you had a productive and enjoyable experience. Here are some reminders and updates:

  • Regarding the Annual Conference, the session presentations and handouts that were uploaded to the TEXPERS phone app are now available from the association's website.  Check it out!
  • Did your fund participate in the Asset Allocation Study? The report was handed out at the conference and is now posted to the website. Find it here and review the presentation of the report that was given at the conference.
  • Does your Retirement System have new trustees that need to meet the PRB training requirements? Basic Trustee Training is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 18 in Austin at Dimensional Fund and registration is open. Click here to learn more, login and register.
  • Max Patterson, TEXPERS' executive director, has announced his retirement effective later this year and a search has begun to identify his replacement. The job is posted here. Please feel free to share this posting with those you feel might have interest. The position will be posted and resumes accepted for 30 days.
  • Save the Date for TEXPERS' Summer Educational Forum. The forum takes place Aug. 12-14 in San Antonio at the Grand Hyatt. Registration will open soon - we'll send an email letting you know. 
               Here is the Summer Forum schedule so you can mark your calendar:

Saturday, August 11:
Advanced Trustee Training

Sunday, August 12:
Golf Tournament (am)
Non-golfers workshop (am)
Registration opens (pm)
Member's Event (pm)

Monday, August 13:
Opening Ceremony
General Sessions and Breakouts
Reception (evening)

Tuesday, August 14:
General Sessions
Round Table Discussions
Conference adjourns after lunch

  • Save the Date for "Strategies for the 86th Session: Communicate Effectively with Legislators," Jan. 22-23, 2019 in Austin. Registration will open this summer.

 If you have any questions, please let us know. Email us at texpers@texpers.org or call 713-622-8018.

Brown Continues as TEXPERS' President

 Association Board Also Elects Director Positions


By Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager

Elections were conducted for the 11-member board of directors of the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems on April 15 during the organization’s annual conference on South Padre Island.

Paul Brown
Paul Brown, of Big Spring Firemen’s Relief and Retirement Fund, continues as the board’s president. As president, Brown directs the association’s dealings as authorized by the board and presides over trustee meetings. He was elected to the TEXPERS board in 1996 and went on to serve as second vice president, first vice president and president. He resigned in 2010 but returned to the board in 2014 when he was also elected as the board’s president. He has served the board for a total of 19 years.

TEXPERS board members also use the yearly conference to elect officers from their peers. 

Jim Smith, of the San Antonio Fire and Police Fund, is serving as first vice president. TEXPERS bylaws require the second vice president to preside over board meetings when the president is absent. Smith has served in Police Position No. 8 since 2014 and also was re-elected to the position by his caucus during the conference.

His isn’t the only position that can fill in for an absent president. Dallas Employees’ Retirement Fund’s John Jenkins now serves as second vice president. The position serves a similar function as the first vice president. Jenkins would be called to supervise any board meetings missed by the president and first vice president. He moves into the position after having served as the board’s secretary. He has served in Municipal Position No. 1 on the board since he was first elected by his caucus to take over an unexpired term in 2011.

Sherry Mose, of the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System, is now TEXPERS’ board secretary. She previously served as the board’s first vice president. As secretary, Mose is to prepare board meeting agendas and make them available to all TEXPERS member systems at least 72 hours before meetings. The director position also makes Mose responsible for taking minutes for all board meetings. As board secretary, she is also to confirm delegates and nominees. Mose has served three four-year terms on the board since being first elected by her caucus in 2008.

Eyna Canales-Zarate, of the City of Austin Employee Retirement System, is the board’s treasurer, a position she previously held. As treasurer, she oversees the collection of member system dues and other funds belonging to the association. The post also manages TEXPERS funds and makes disbursements under the authorization of the board, according to the association’s bylaws. Treasurers also maintain financial records and reports on financial transactions. She has served in Municipal Position No. 11 since elected to her first term in 2006.


The board has a new member, Larry Knott of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Employees Defined Benefit Retirement Plan and Trust. During the conference, he was elected by his caucus to serve Authority/District Position No. 9 on the TEXPERS board of directors. He takes over the position formerly held by board member Jose Cavazos, who is a member of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Retirement Plan and Trust. Cavazos was re-elected by his caucus to serve on the TEXPERS board of directors but this time taking over Authority/District Position No. 10. Michael Curran previously held the position.

Caucuses elect board directors, who serve four-year terms. All member systems’ delegates are eligible to serve on the board. According to the association’s bylaws, the board is to include three municipal system members, three fire system members, three police system members, and two authority district members.


To learn more about TEXPERS’ board, including biographies, visit www.texpers.org and click the “About TEXPERS” tab. 

Texas Public Pension Funds Ride 2017 Stock Market to 11 percent returns

By Joe Gimenez, TEXPERS' Public Relations Consultant
The U.S. stock market’s stellar performance helped Texas’ public employee pension funds average 11 percent returns in 2017, according to a survey performed by Maples Fund Services for the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems. The 63 systems responding beat the average target rate of 7.5 percent in both the one-year and 15-year periods.
“The pension systems for municipal employees, firefighters, and police officers are doing their job, lowering risk and raising returns with money entrusted to them by their cities for the deferred retirement benefits of their employees,” said Max Patterson, executive director for TEXPERS. “This continuing excellent performance is surely one of the reasons public employees demonstrated such dedication to duty during Hurricane Harvey, flocking to those areas hardest hit and mobilizing to aid distressed Texans.”
James Perry of Maples Financial Services provides an overview of TEXPERS' annual asset allocation report.
TEXPERS’ yearly “Report on the Asset Allocation and Investment Performance of Texas Public Employee Retirement Systems," released in April, shows that local systems made few changes to their asset allocations from 2016. Stocks comprise 48.7 percent of their holdings, with alternative strategies and fixed income accounting for the rest. The 63 survey respondents manage $57.10 billion in combined total assets.

The local pension funds continued lowering the rate they target for investment returns. The average rate was 7.5 percent, down from 7.6 percent in 2016, and 8.0 percent in 2013. Lowering the target rate reduces portfolio risk but also requires larger contributions from plan sponsors.
TEXPERS released the report to 560 pension Trustees, administrators, system members and investment professionals attending its "Casting the Net for Retirement Security” educational conference on South Padre Island April 15-18.

Patterson recognized the following standout systems for 20-year average performance for the period ending September 2017:
Big Spring Firemen's Relief & Retirement Fund
  
7.74%
Austin Firefighters’ Relief & Retirement Fund
  
7.20%

The full 2018 Asset Allocation report is available 
here.


About the Author:
Joe Gimenez is TEXPERS's public relations consultant. He owns G3 Public Relations, a public and media relations firm that also specializes in reputation management.

Island conference sent attendees home with tips to

 become better trustees and administrators


By Max Patterson, TEXPERS Executive Director

Nearly 520 people attended TEXPERS' Annual Conference on South Padre Island April 15-18. I hope each person returned home with at least one new piece of knowledge to help them better serve their public pension systems.

The exact total of attendees was 519 and consisted of 241 system members and 278 investment members. Some people were hoping to top 600 attendees at this year’s conference, but I think anything close to 500 is outstanding.

South Padre Island, located on Texas’ coastal tip, presented a challenge, and we took some risk going there as some members wondered if the convention spot was too far for them to travel. Conference attendees flew into Harlingen or Brownsville airports, and TEXPERS provided a shuttle to the island.

Overall I think most everyone had a good time. The weather was good, and we were able to give our members a little free time in the late afternoon to enjoy the island. There are always a few members who like working until the lights are out, but effective learning stops working after a limited number of hours.


Evaluations collected after the conference were very positive regarding the quality of the conference speakers and topics. Barbara Zlatnik, TEXPERS’ associate director of programs and training, works hard to get the best speakers we can while working within our membership and budget limitations. Please keep your suggestions coming. We may not be able to address them at the next conference, but we don’t throw them out. We maintain a list and try to work them in when there is a fit.

One challenge we continue to have is putting on topics that address the concerns of both small and large plans. The majority of our 75-plus member systems are small plans, but the managers focus on the large plans because that’s where the bulk of the assets are. Our presentations are often geared to that larger group – funds that have more than $1 billion in assets. Small plans are different from large plans in asset allocation size and often have few to no staff. The small plans often struggle with attracting managers. The plans operate considerably different from large plans. We continue to work toward a solution to balance out the topics.

Photo by Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager
TEXPERS Executive Director Max Patterson, left, serves as moderator during a conference breakout session. The session focused on minimizing the cost of DROPs. With Patterson are Jim Smith, middle, of the San Antonio Fire & Police Pension Fund, and Eric Atwater, of Aon Hewitt.
I applaud our membership for staying at the conference venues to hear presentations. You don’t always see that at other conferences, such as those put on by private for-profit groups. Our members want to stick around for our sessions partially because TEXPERS does not allow its conference presenters to use our session times to sell their professional services. We push our speakers to educate our conference attendees, only. There is plenty of time for presenters to market their investment services during breaks and after conference hours. I think our investment professionals have learned to respect that rule, and yes it’s a rule provided to our presenters before each conference.

We also try to strictly enforce a rule that prohibits investment professionals from taking trustees out of sessions for non-conference events or activities. If violated, the investment firm can be thrown out of TEXPERS.

TEXPERS provides basic and advanced training in addition to continuing education credits during our conferences. This year’s conference included advanced training sessions held the day before the conference began. During the training, attendees received expert advice to guide them in making ethical decisions as fiduciaries of the retirement funds belonging to police officers, firefighters and other public workers. Workshop presenters also took attendees beyond investment basics and introduced them to equity and debt securities.

The issues of appropriate training of trustees, quality of conferences and level of competency of trustees often come up during legislative testimony in Austin. So far TEXPERS has received good marks and has a great relationship with legislators based on our conference and quality of education.

Photo by Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager
Attendees fill the conference room of the South Padre Island Convention Center for the opening ceremony of TEXPERS' 2018 Annual Conference on April 16.
We always end the last day of the conference covering legislative issues. The final day of the conference usually is a half-day and is geared toward our trustee members. This year’s crowd dwindled for the legislative session. More of TEXPERS’ member trustees should extend their conference stay for the session so they can find out what is going on in Texas’ capital building and prepare for any attacks on defined-benefit plans that may be in the works. The legislative session helps prepare trustees to serve as advocates of defined-benefit pensions for their active and retired system members. I encourage those who do stay for future legislative sessions held during our annual conferences to put peer pressure on those who tend to skip the sessions.

Some TEXPERS members would like us to move this session to an earlier time during the conference. But the legislative part is primarily for our trustees, not the pension fund managers who also attend the first days of the conference. Because money managers pay to make presentations during our conferences, we have to be mindful of their time as legislative happenings in Texas do not impact most of the money managers. I hope our trustee members schedule their travel time to stay a half-day later to hear what’s going on in Austin instead of asking us to move the legislative session to the first day of the conference when half our audience has no interest in the subject. It’s all about balance.

We in Texas are doing pretty good when it comes to pensions as compared to other states, and it’s not an accident. It’s you doing your job as trustees and administrators that help set the state apart from the others. Gaining insight and training during TEXPERS conferences and educational forums are vital to ensure you continue to do your fiduciary duties the right way. We are not all perfect, but we try to be.

We have a good relationship with our legislature, considering its make-up. We’ve worked to achieve the legislature's respect. Let’s keep up the excellent work. Keep focused on what’s right. Being average is not good enough.