Wednesday, September 23, 2020

HPS Investment Partners Hosts Educational Webinar on Direct Lending


Online Learning Opportunity Satisfies State-mandated Educational Requirements

TEXPERS Staff Report

Texas public employee retirement system trustees and administrators participated in TEXPERS' free online learning opportunity, held Sept. 23. The webinar was presented by HPS Investment Partners.

The webinar, Direct Lending - The Benefits of Scale and Differentiated Sourcing, featured Michael Patterson, governing partner and portfolio manager of Direct Lending Strategies at HPS Investment Partners. He shared insights on how best to extract attractive risk-adjusted returns through differentiated sourcing capabilities.

Patterson discussed:
  • Non-sponsor lending
  • Utilizing scale as a competitive advantage
  • Opportunities to find excess returns persist at the larger end of the lending market

More Learning Opportunities


TEXPERS is hosting a half-day online conference from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. The program will allow trustees and administrators to earn up to four hours of training to help meet core state-mandated educational requirements for new and continuing pension fund trustees and administrators. Topics will include Emerging Markets; Municipal Bond Market; Actuarial Matters; and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). More details are coming soon.

Be sure to follow TEXPERS on Facebook  and on Twitter , or visit us at www.texpers.org for more information about the upcoming virtual conference and additional online learning opportunities.

Each session during the half-day online conference will allow new and continuing pension fund trustees and administrators to satisfy one hour of core training requirements.

Minimum Educational Training Credit


As an accredited sponsor, TEXPERS' webinars meet the Minimum Educational Training Program of the Pension Review Board of Texas. 

All new public employee retirement system trustees and administrators are required to complete at least seven credit hours of training the core content within their first year of service. Continuing trustees and administrators are required to complete at least four credit hours of continuing education in either core or non-core content areas within each two-year period after their first year of service. 

To receive credit from any of TEXPERS' educational webinars, attendees must sit through an entire presentation, participate in polling questions during the session, and answer a survey provided in a post-webinar email TEXPERS sends to registrants. At the conclusion of a webinar, a highlighted code will appear on the last slide of a presentation. Attendees will need to provide the code in the designated area of the follow-up survey as proof of attendance.

A recording of the session also will be linked to the follow-up email. However, those who didn't participate in a live webinar are unable to receive the credit hour.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

How Pension Funds Cope with Work-From-Home Environment

Survey Allows Pension System Administrators to Gauge Remote Work Policies of Industry Cohorts

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

By ALLEN JONES/TEXPERS Communications Manager

The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced many companies to find new ways to operate as federal and state health departments continue to promote social distancing. For their employees' wellbeing, private- and public-sector employers alike have had to develop new or expand existing remote work policies - and that includes public pension systems.

As the pandemic continues, many workplaces are attempting to figure out how remote work has impacted their operations, what their priorities should be, and what the future may hold for remote work. The National Association of State Retirement Administrators recently surveyed its members to see how their pension systems' remote work policies have changed since the novel coronavirus pandemic forced many workplaces to operate under social distancing recommendations of national and local health departments. 

The NASRA report doesn't offer best-practices as much as it compiles responses from the various retirement system members who participated in the survey. The nonprofit association's members are the directors of the nation's state, territorial, and largest statewide public retirement systems. Because those members are responsible for their systems' day-to-day administrations, NASRA researchers wanted to find out how their members are responding to the pandemic in terms of workplace policies and practices.

The expectation, said NASRA Research Director Keith Brainard in an email, is that public retirement systems will glean helpful insights from their fellow systems' responses.

In August, NASRA invited all 90 of its members, including 20 directors of local retirement systems who are NASRA Educational Alliance members, to participate in the survey. Out of the 90 members invited to take the survey, 28 retirement systems in 24 states participated, including Texas' Employees Retirement System and the state's Teacher Retirement System.

"I was impressed by how effectively and seamlessly responding systems appear to have transitioned to conducting their work primarily from the homes of system employees," Brainard said. "This appears to be the result partly of telecommuting and disaster recovery policies and practices that were in place for many systems prior to the onset of the pandemic. Notably, some systems reported that they do not have a policy for employees working remotely, although those systems also appear to be weathering the experience without major disruption."

What surprised Brainard the most about the survey responses is how universally systems appear to have effectively transitioned to having substantially all of their major functions conducted from employees' homes rather than in a central office.

The seven-page report lists questions provided in the survey along with responses provided by their participating members. Access to NASRA survey results are typically made available only to NASRA members. Because of the unique, pervasive, and significant effects of the pandemic on the broader community of public retirement systems, the association made the results of this survey more widely accessible. To encourage full and candid participation in NASRA's surveys, Brainard said the association does not share survey results attributable to individual survey respondents.

Written Policies


Of the 28 systems participating in the survey, 20 had a written policy governing employees working remotely. Eight responded they did not have a remote work policy.

Thirteen of the 20 systems with a written policy reported that the policy was in place before the pandemic. Six systems developed a remote work policy in response to the pandemic. One system had a policy in place before the pandemic but updated it during the health crisis.

Survey respondents also gave various answers to a question asking which groups of employees could work remotely and which ones were ineligible.

Seven systems indicated that all employees could work from home. Eight systems responded that all employees could work from home except essential employees or those whose duties will not allow.

Additional responses from NASRA members include:

  • As a response to the pandemic, we are allowing employees who are able to complete job responsibilities remotely with health or childcare issues to work remotely at the discretion of their division director.
  • Decisions as to who may work remotely are made on a case by case basis. Most of our administrative, accounting and customer service personnel are capable of remote work.
  • Been employed more than six months, have at least 'effective' performance, be able to work independently, work in a role that lends itself to remote work.
  • Investments, Finance, Legal, Executive, IT.
  • Managerial discretion.
  • Technically, no employees are "eligible" to work remotely. Almost all employees, except for some staff in operations, are working under a temporary telework arrangement.
  • Majority of staff. Remote connectivity dictates ability to work remotely.

When asked about employees who are ineligible to work remotely, systems indicated call center staff and IT personnel along with member service representatives such as receptionists. Other responses provided:

  • Front desk
  • Mailroom staff
  • Those who cannot perform essential services remotely.
  • It is up to the manager of the department, but typically managers and supervisors would only telecommute on an ad hoc basis.
  • Workers whose job requires resources only found in the building (Facilities Services, Mail Center Printshop, etc.).
  • Essential staff needed to maintain remote operations.
Some systems required employees such as those who can perform their work remotely, field representatives, employees under quarantine who can complete their job responsibilities, staff deemed to be "at-risk" of contracting the novel coronavirus, to work remotely. Only staff considered as essential to operations could come to the office.

Another system asked those it allowed to remote work to come to the office two days a week. The required in-office days were subject to change based on local virus conditions and did not forbid any employee from entering the system's offices.

One NASRA member system indicated that roughly 66 percent of its staff are teleworking on any given day and 34 percent working from the office. Another plan reported allowing three managers to work onsite regularly while the remote staff was not allowed in the system building. For a staff person who had to come to the office, the system required them to undergo a wellness screening in advance of arriving.

One system indicated that its remote workers are "fully remote" and must get permission from their senior manager to enter the system office building. According to the respondent, the rule is to maintain the health of the small essential workforce needed to process incoming payments and documents.

Office Supplies and Equipment



NASRA also asked its members about office supplies and equipment provided to those allowed to work remotely. Computers, monitors, keyboards and other peripherals, telephones, and headsets are among the equipment one system made available to staff.

One system issued laptops to remote staff. For field representatives working 100 percent remotely, the system provided cell phones and vehicles so they could continue to travel throughout the state. Another system even provided remote staff with adjustable height workstations, if ergonomically required.

A system installed a cloud-based phone system to accommodate remote workers. Another reported providing printers, envelopes, and postage for a few administrative staff to send correspondence that is not system generated, such as letters from the director's office. One system allowed employees to submit requests to take their office chairs home.

One NASRA member indicated that before the pandemic, because teleworking was optional, and staff provided their own equipment. During the pandemic, however, because teleworking was required, staff without proper equipment were provided tools need to work remotely.

Cybersecurity



NASRA researchers also asked respondents to describe any cybersecurity systems that are in place for remote workers. Among the selected responses:
  • A new cybersecurity curriculum was created to emphasize work from home security best practices while continuing to adhere to existing data protection standards. Various delivery methods were employed to address adoption of topics, from interactive videos to daily emails converting remote work security tips.
  • Our system's network infrastructure was scaled to provide the needed technology performance to handle increased demands on computer, email, and communication conferencing programs. 
  • Required operating system requirements and approved anti-virus software. Employees are also trained on cybersecurity monthly.
  • To access VPN (a virtual private network), we utilize Cisco AnyConnect. Employees must first log into Cisco AnyConnect using a third-party authentication code; then, they are allowed to access their office desktop through VPN.
  • Multifactor authentication. Monitoring of connections. Log tracking and evaluation through two vendor partners.
  • McAfee login for laptops and FortiClient two-factor authentication to access the network.

Post-pandemic Practices



NASRA also asked its members if they expected their systems' policies and practices regarding employees working remotely to change after the pandemic, and, if so, in what ways. One member responded with a "yes," explaining that teleworking has taught system administrators that certain divisions can be more productive using teleworking than in the building.

"We will be open to each division finding the right balance between work from home and in the office to maximize productivity," wrote the unnamed survey respondent. "In rough terms, I suspect that we will see about 50 percent of work done remotely ranging from full-time work from home employees to full-time in the office (and every possible combination in between)."

Among the survey's selected responses, a respondent wrote that the system's work from home policy would remain the same after the pandemic. The respondent anticipates approximately 50 percent of the system's staff will continue to work remotely for at least two to three days per week.

Another respondent wrote that the system's standard telework policy is likely to be reworked to make it less complicated and not require as much documentation. The respondent also reported that most employees would probably be doing some telework due to weather, childcare, or delivery issues as well as be required to demonstrate this about once a month just for business robustness and continuity operations.

One answer indicated that the system's remote work policy is only for those impacted or potentially impacted by COVID-19 and that remote working was not allowed before the pandemic. The respondent wrote that the system would not implement a long-term remote work policy.

According to another survey respondent, the system's remote work policy is used in limited scenarios - generally as accommodations for health reasons. The system quickly created work-from-home guidelines at the start of local and state social distancing requirements, but that the system had not made a policy because administrators want to set policies based on post-pandemic circumstance. Changes, according to the survey respondent, would require employees to enter the building periodically, require speed minimum on home internets, require that remote work employees acquire childcare/adult care services as they would if they were coming into the office, and require remote workers to turn on video form home for meetings.

Challenges and Benefits



Some survey respondents offered challenges resulting from the implementation of remote work. One NASRA member said the retirement system's rural state has less than ideal connectivity options, which presents logistical challenges for some staff. Another survey respondent wrote that system administrators are seeking ways to maintain communication and workplace culture when most employees are working from home.

Others listed the benefits of remote work. Among the responses, a system director indicated that business metrics such as retirement application processing and telephone service level were not negatively impacted due to teleworking. The respondent also stated that system data also shows a decrease in staff absenteeism.

Another respondent indicated that telecommuting has been ideal for the winter weather in the system's state. According to the respondent, system employees are happy with the program, and service levels remain high.

For a more in-depth look at how remote work policies and guidelines are impacting retirement systems, access the NASRA report here.

"I would expect that these results will help inform public retirement systems to better understand the challenges and potential solutions to planning and implementing policies and practices for employees to work from home," Brainard, NASRA's research director, said. "Beyond the immediate need generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, this information may also be helpful in developing and refining public retirement system disaster recovery policies and practices."

NASRA does not have an official policy on or expertise in public retirement system work-from-home or remote work policies. One of the benefits of organizations like NASRA, Brainard said, is that it can facilitate compilation and sharing of information about the broader public retirement system community that can help retirement systems learn from the insights and experiences of one another.

Currently, NASRA does not plan to conduct further research or surveys on remote work policies. However, Brainard said that should the need arise, based on observation or in response to a request from membership, the association may perform additional work in this area.

Retirement systems looking for additional information on creating remote work policies, the Government Finance Officers Association published a primer, Working Remotely: A Guide for the Public Sector, that public sector employees might find beneficial. The guide is available here.


About the Author: 


Public Employees Go Above and Beyond Duty

Here are a Few Ways Public Employees Go the Extra Mile to Aid Communities



TEXPERS Staff Report

Each month, TEXPERS searches the internet for stories of Texas public employees going the extra mile to help their communities.

Check out what we found this month:

State employee weathers hurricane to assist youth

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services recently recognized a South Texas Child Protective Servi

ces caseworker with the agency's Shelter From the Storm Award.

The caseworker, Jordan Pratt, received the award for helping a former foster youth during Hurricane Hanna, according to the agency's Aug. 11 Facebook post. According to the post, the former foster youth reached out to Pratt, who discovered the youth was in an unsafe living situation. Despite the hurricane, Prat helped the youth relocated to a safe place.

"His efforts to go above and beyond to ensure a youth's safety make us #ProudtoProtect!," the department posted to its Facebook news feed.

Quick thinking by off-duty police officer helps officer from another city apprehend violent criminal


The City of Pharr recently honored police officer Gerardo Gonzalez for potentially saving the life of an officer from another city.

According to an article on Officer.com, Gonzalez was off duty on Aug. 18 driving to San Antonio with his wife and son for a fam
ily vacation. As the family passed through the City of George West in Live Oak County, Gonzalez noticed a George West police officer's car with its lights on. A George West police officer was trying to detain a man suspected of stealing a vehicle, according to the Officer.com report. 

As he drove by, Gonzalez noticed observed the lone police officer had his stun gun drawn and had discharged the cartridges while attempting to apprehend the suspect. Gonzalez turned his vehicle around to assist the George West officer. The suspect managed to take possession of the George West police officer's gun. Gonzalez de-escalated the situation by managing to remove the magazine out of the gun and discharging the last round into the ground, he told officer.com.

A post on the Pharr Police Department's Facebook news feed features an electronic billboard posted by an auto dealer praising the officer for his quick action while off duty and includes the hashtag #hometownhero. 



Firefighters head to California to help battle wildfires


Recently, 56 fire departments in Texas have deployed roughly 190 firefighters, 50 fire trucks and 10 command vehicles to assist the state of California beat back wildfires. That is in addition to 44 firefighters, 10 fire trucks and two command vehicles previously sent to California last month, according to a report on KVUE ABC's website.

Crews from Austin, Bexar County, Canyon Lake, Kyle, Lake Travis, North Hays County, Oak Hill, Round Rock, Saint Hedwig and San Antonio are among the areas where departments have dispatched crews to California. 

Twenty-nine wildries have been reported, spreading for more than 4,800 square miles, so far, from the Oregon border to Mexico. According to the Sept. 11 KVUE report, 19 people have been killed and at least 4,000 structures have burned in California.

A Sept. 11 Twitter thread by the Kyle Fire Department, features a photo of the crew it was lending to cause.


Tell us About Public Employees You Know


Do you know of a public employees that has gone above and beyond their duties in contributing to their local communities? Let us know about them in the comments section below.


Essential Roles in Our Communities


Public employees fill an essential role in our Texas communities. Law enforcement and firefighters protect lives and property. Municipal workers repair our streets, maintain parks, assist library patrons, and ensure that our water is safe to drink. Educators help our children grow into adulthood.


Those are just a few examples of the critical jobs public employees do for us. Some jobs are dangerous. Others receive little thanks. Many involve backbreaking work. But most are done with a dedication to the greater good that's often unmatched in the private sector.


Many public employees, like the ones we've highlighted this month, often go the extra mile to contribute to their communities. TEXPERS urges you to go the extra mile in return and ask your local and state governments to ensure public employees receive their promised benefits.


To learn more about public pensions, visit our website at www.texpers.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.






TEXPERS Hosts Educational Webinar

Pension Industry Thought Leaders Discuss Outsourced CIO Relationships During Online Moderated Event


Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay 

TEXPERS Staff Report

What are the general duties of pension plan consultants and outsourced chief investment officers? TEXPERS gathered industry thought leaders for an educational webinar to give the trustees and administrators of TEXPERS' Member Systems advice on what pension plans should do to take stock of their funds' advisory relationships.

During the webinar, held Sept. 15, a moderator used a question-and-answer format allowing the panelists to identify some of the differences between non-discretionary and discretionary advisory models.

Click here to view a recording of the webinar. Those wanting to watch the video will be required to register for access.

During the session, the panel:

  • Outlined some decision point considerations for plan trustees.
  • Illustrated some of the more nuanced differences between the services.
  • Revealed what the economic and market upheaval brought by the novel coronavirus pandemic has taught.
  • Took audience questions relating to advisory relationships and the markets in general.
Mark Weir, from Maples Group, moderated the webinar. The expert panelists were Jim Link, from PFM; Chris McGoldrick, from PNC; and Robert Longfield, from CBIZ.


Future Webinars


TEXPERS is hosting educational webinars to help in the professional development of its Member Systems' trustees and administrators. Additional webinars are being planned.

The next webinar, Direct Lending – The Benefits of Scale and Differentiated Sourcing, will be held at 10 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.

Synopsis: Since the Global Financial Crisis, investors globally continue in their search for yield, shifting capital from public to private markets, with private debt emerging as an attractive asset class for institutional investors seeking an illiquidity yield premium.

With the private debt market currently estimated to be ~$850 billion and likely to grow, in this webinar, Michael Patterson, Governing Partner and Portfolio Manager of Direct Lending Strategies at HPS Partners, will share insights on how best to extract attractive risk-adjusted returns through differentiated sourcing capabilities.

Topics will include:
  • Non-sponsor lending: not just sourcing, it’s about execution.
  • Utilizing scale as a competitive advantage.
  • Opportunities to find excess returns persist at the larger end of the lending market.
Click here to register.

For an up to date listing of webinars, click here to visit TEXPERS Online Education link on the association’s website.

Earn Continuing Education Credits


New and Continuing pension system trustees and administrators who attended live webinars can earn one credit hour to satisfy state-mandated Continuing Education. To earn the credit, attendees are required to sit through the entire presentation, participate in polling questions during the session, and answer a survey emailed to attendees after the webinar. Those who do not sit through the webinar are unable to earn credit.

For additional information, email texpers@texpers.org or visit our website. Also, be sure to follow TEXPERS on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Janus Henderson Presents Educational Webinar

The Session is Part of a New Series of Online Learning Aimed at 

Pension Fund Trustees and Admins


Screen capture of Sept. 9, 2020, webinar hosted by TEXPERS and presented by Janus Henderson Investors.

TEXPERS STAFF REPORT

The Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems and hosted an online discussion on the often overlooked risk and return benefits of adding Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) to a broader real estate portfolio.

The educational webinar was present by Janus Henderson Investors on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

> ON DEMAND: Click to watch a recording.

Danny Greenberger, portfolio manager of Global Property Equities, and Guy Barnard, co-head and portfolio manager of Global Property Equities, at Janus Henderson lead the educational session. 

Over the last decade, institutional investors have turned to a range of private investments – equity, debt and real estate – in search of higher returns, said Geenberger and Barnard. However, they added, that while private equities and debt have outperformed their listed counterparts for the past 20 years, the same cannot be said in real estate. According to their presentation, many public plans are significantly underweight Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) relative to the size of the asset class.

During the webinar, Janus Henderson's Global Real Estate Team highlighted the benefits of an allocation to REITs, including:

  • The ability to access "non-core" property types – such as self-storage, cell towers, data centers, single tenant net lease and manufactured housing – with long-term cash flow growth opportunities;
  • The ability to be more nimble when shorter-term market opportunities arise;
  • Daily liquidity
As an Accredited Sponsor of the Pension Review Board of Texas, TEXPERS provided 1 credit hour of Continuing Education credits to pension plan trustees and administrators who attended the live webinar, participated in polling questions, and entered a code provided at the end of the webinar in a post-event survey.

Although a recording of the webinar is available for on-demand viewing through TEXPERS' GoToWebinar platform, only those who sat through the live session are eligible to earn the training credit. 

The webinar is part of a series of educational sessions meant to assist public pension system trustees and administrators earn state-mandated training hours. TEXPERS established the educational series in place of in-person programming that was to take place during the association's Annual Conference and Summer Educational Forum, which were canceled this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

TEXPERS hosted a webinar in May and another in July as part of the educational series. Additional webinars are scheduled and association staff are organizing more sessions.

Upcoming Online Learning

Webinar | Taking Stock of Your Advisory Relationship: Outsource CIO, Consultants, and the Market
Presented by PFM LLC, PNC Capital Advisors, & CBIZ Inc.
10 a.m. CST on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020
Qualifies for 1 credit hour for Basic or Advanced Trustee Training in Investments.


Webinar | Direct Lending - The Benefits of Scale and Differentiated Sourcing
Presented by HPS Investment Partners
10 a.m. CST on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020
Qualifies for 1 credit hour for Basic or Advanced Trustee Training in Investments.

Mandated Training Hours

Texas law requires the Pension Review Board to establish a Minimum Educational Training Program for trustees and system administrators of state and local public retirement systems. The PRB's Minimum Educational Training requirements include core and non-core topic areas. New trustees and administrators must earn a minimum of 7 hours of training within their first year of service. Continuing trustees and administrators must receive a minimum of 4 hours of training every two years after their first year of service. 

TEXPERS is offering credit training hours for core and non-core topics. New trustees and administrators needing additional first-year training may do so online through the PRB's website.

>ADDITIONAL TRAINING: Pension Review Board MET Info
Webinar Replays


In May, TEXPERS hosted Controlled Acceleration: Using Derivatives to Manage Pension Plan Risk, Return & Liquidity. Sponsored by TEXPERS Consultant Member River and Mercantile, the webinar is accessible through the association's blog.

>WEBINAR REPLAY: Controlled Acceleration

In July, TEXPERS hosted COVID-19: Impact on a Pension Plan's Liquidity. Also sponsored by TEXPERS Consultant Member River and Mercantile, a replay of the webinar is accessible through the association's blog.

>WEBINAR REPLAY: Impact of COVID-19 on Liquidity



Tuesday, September 8, 2020

PRB Investment Committee Meets Online Sept. 29

The Pension Review Board Investment Committee meeting will be 

streamed online on its YouTube channel


Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay 

Staff Report 

The Texas Pension Review Board will host its Investment Committee meeting by teleconference at 10 a.m. CST on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020.

Click here for the meeting agenda.

The committee meeting will be streamed online on the PRB’s YouTube channel. That link will be available on the PRB homepage, www.prb.texas.gov, before the session begins.

The PRB encourages anyone who wants to provide public comment to pre-register with the PRB’s Office Manager, Lindsay Seymour, by Sept. 29, 2020, at 8 a.m. CT. To pre-register, call 512-463-1736 or 800-213-9425. Or, send an email to prb@prb.texas.gov.