Monday, September 9, 2019

TEXPERS' Summer Educational Forum offered education, training and networking to pension stakeholders

At left, Paul Brown, president of TEXPERS' board of directors, introduces speakers during the opening ceremony of the Summer Educational Forum in Frisco, Texas.

TEXPERS Staff Report

Nearly 360 people attended the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems' annual Summer Educational Forum Aug. 18-20 in Frisco, Texas

TEXPERS members came from across the state to attend the forum, which included a variety of speakers and expert-guided educational sessions offering insights into pension management and the investment industry. The association held this year's event at the Omni Hotel at The Star, an entertainment and shopping district that is home of the Ford Center football stadium and headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys. The day prior to the forum, TEXPERS hosted training sessions for its members looking to gain continuing education credits. 

Art Alfaro
"I heard nothing but positive feedback from attendees during the summer forum in Frisco," said Art Alfaro, TEXPERS' executive director. "The attendees enjoyed the Omni venue, and all the amenities surrounding the hotel made it easy to find dining options."

The forum was Alfaro's first serving as TEXPERS' executive director. The association's board of directors hired Alfaro in July to run TEXPERS' business operations. As the City of Austin's former treasurer, Alfaro served on the board of three city pension systems and was a frequent attendee of TEXPERS' educational events.

"My experience attending as executive director instead of as a trustee was eye-opening," he said. "As a trustee, I would focus on the material being presented by the speakers during the sessions. As executive director, I found myself making sure attendees were in the sessions, and instead of listening to speakers, I was worried about the sound system, lighting and making sure the rooms were comfortable for the attendees."

A week before the forum, Alfaro sustained an ankle injury, which confined him to a wheelchair for the duration of the conference. 

"The ankle injury definitely added an unexpected element and limited my mobility so I wasn't able to move from one concurrent session to another as I would have liked to, but overall, I was still able to visit with many of our members," he said.

At left, Stephanie Leibe, chairwoman of the Texas Pension Review Board, and Anumeha Kumar, the PRB's executive director, give a presentation updating forum attendees on new report requirements enacted by state law.

This year's forum included a pre-conference workshop on commodities investing led by David Lerman of the CME Group at the Omni Hotel as well as a networking golf tournament and luncheon held at Plantation Golf Club. The opening ceremony keynote offered attendees an update and outlook for energy infrastructure by Greg Reid of  Salient Partners. Other highlights included a joint presentation by Texas Pension Review Board Executive Director Anumeha Kumar and board chairwoman Stephanie Leibe, a motivational talk by former Navy SEAL Ryan "Birdman" Parrott, and concurrent breakout sessions offering expert insight on a variety of pension industry topics.

Alfaro says attending TEXPERS' annual forum as well as its other training and educational programming is invaluable because they expose attendees to a multitude of topics. To see the program from this year's form, click here. Click here to access a forum magazine published prior to the event.

Just as important, they get to network and exchange ideas with peers from across the state. He is encouraging the association's members to plan now to attend TEXPERS' next event in Galveston, Texas.

TEXPERS member David Etheridge chats with Summer Educational Forum attendees.

TEXPERS is hosting its 31st Annual Conference May 3-6, 2020 at the Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston. The conference theme is Pensions in 20/20: Focusing on Secure Retirement.

"All members should block out their calendars," he said. "The annual conference in Galveston will be an opportunity to gear up for the upcoming 87th legislative session in Austin. Members will have a chance to sit in sessions with topics related to cybersecurity, governance, and other industry topics."

Registration for TEXPERS' Annual Conference in Galveston isn't open yet. Visit and check back often for more details on the event as they become available. 

To see a photo album of TEXPERS' recent Summer Educational Forum, visit the association's Facebook page.

Austin lawyer returns to State Pension Review Board

TEXPERS Staff Report

Shari Shivers
Shari Shivers has returned to the Texas Pension Review Boardthe state agency that oversees state and local public retirement systems regarding their actuarial soundness and compliance with state law.

An attorney in the Legal Division of the Texas Legislative Council, Shivers previously served on the board from 1997 to 2009. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Shivers to serve on the board, replacing Judge Cable whose term expired Jan. 31. Shivers' term expires Jan. 31, 2023. 

In an email to TEXPERS, Anumeh Kumar, executive director of the State Pension Review Board, said the staff is excited to have Shivers back on the board. 

Shivers is a retirement plans associate and group benefits associate, certified by the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist Program of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, according to a Sept. 4 announcement of her appointment from Gov. Abbott's office. In addition, Shivers is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the Travis County Women Lawyers Association. She also is a sustainer member of the Junior League of  Austin, member of the Women Investing in Success and Education, a former member of the Austin Women's Symphony League, and former board member of Parents and Friends of Liberal Arts and Science Academy. 

Shivers earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Vanderbilt University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.