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Pension Funds

Severe winter storm shuts down pension fund offices along East Coast

Pedestrians walk past the New York Stock Exchange during Thurday’s fast-moving snowstorm, which grounded 3,000 flights and delayed rail travelers in the busy Northeast Corridor.

State pension funds and money managers located on the East Coast from Florida to Maine have taken measures to ensure the safety of employees in the face of a massive offshore winter storm.

Severe storm warnings were issued for parts of 13 eastern states and dire predictions of blizzard conditions blanketed the Atlantic coast from New York to the Canadian Maritime Provinces on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported.

Governors in states including Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Virginia declared emergencies for coastal areas.

As a result, some public pension fund offices were closed on Thursday, including the Delaware Office of Pensions, Dover, "due to unforeseen circumstances," according to a message on its phone system. The office handles the investments of the $9 billion Delaware Public Employees' Retirement System.

An email inquiry sent to the pension office Wednesday was not answered.

The offices of the $50.8 billion Maryland State Retirement & Pensions System, located in Baltimore across Chesapeake Bay from the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean where the so-called bomb cyclone storm roiled, remained "open and operational" Thursday, said Michael D. Golden, a spokesman, in an email.

"Staff was granted liberal leave. I don't know how many have taken it, but we're open for business," he said.

The Rhode Island State Investment Commission, Providence, on the other hand, was closed along with other state offices on the order of Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday.

The investment commission manages the assets of the $8 billion Rhode Island Employees' Retirement System, Providence.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy directed non-essential first and second-shift state employees to not report to work on Thursday, which include staff of the Connecticut Office of the State Treasurer. The office, which manages the $34.2 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds, Hartford, was closed Thursday but employees worked from home, a news release from Treasurer Denise L. Nappier said.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Freeman, spokeswoman for New York state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, sole trustee of the $201.3 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, Albany, said that the office is open, although several employees are home because schools are closed.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that state offices will be closed Thursday for non-emergency, executive branch state employees due to the storm.

Eric Convey, spokesman for the $67 billion Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management, Boston, confirmed that employees are working from home Thursday.

Further north, "no changes to our normal procedures" were planned for Thursday, said Marty Karlon, spokesman for the $8.5 billion New Hampshire Retirement System, Concord, in an email.

"If the governor shuts down state agencies tomorrow, we will follow suit even though we aren't an executive agency, but barring that, NHRS will be open for business. I think the mid-Atlantic and southern New England are going to be hit harder."

"Winter Storm Grayson (bombogenesis?) is low on my list of exogenous risks. To the best of my recollection, it has been cold and snowed in Maine every year since 1960," said Andrew Sawyer, chief investment officer of the $13.9 billion Maine Public Employees Retirement System, Augusta, in an email.

Still, Maine PERS' office was closed Thursday.

Money managers maintained business as usual on Thursday, in some cases, allowing employees to work from home.

J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPM) spokeswoman Kristen Chambers said the firm's New York offices will be open "but employees and teams may work remotely if necessary on a case by case basis."

Fidelity Investments spokesman Mike Alto said the firm's Boston and Rhode Island offices will be open Thursday. "It will be business as usual," he said.

State Street Global Advisors spokesman Brendan Paul issued the following statement on SSGA on Wednesday: "The safety of our employees is our utmost concern, and we are monitoring tomorrow's weather forecast closely. At this time, we expect to continue business operations without interruption. Consistent with our standard business continuity plans, we will implement contingency procedures, including managers employing work-from-home arrangements for non-essential staff at their discretion, if deemed necessary."

On Wednesday, asset owners further south also took a conservative approach to protecting employees.

Tallahassee, Fla., endured the rare occurrence of ice and snow.

"Given the forecast, we sent out a message (Tuesday) night that our offices were planning on being open, pending any declaration by the governor about office closures or local emergency official," said John Kuczwanski, communications manager for the $195.6 billion Florida State Board of Administration, Tallahassee, in an email.

On Wednesday, FSBA officials notified employees about known road closures and stressed that employees should only come to work if conditions were safe, Mr. Kuczwanski said.

Local road closures, including Interstate 10 from Tallahassee eastward, meant that some employees got into work later than usual but the investment office was "fully operational," Mr. Kuczwanski added.

The South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission, Columbia, was closed Wednesday along with other state offices located in Richland County, said LaJoia Broughton, an RSIC spokeswoman, in an email. The RSIC manages the $31.1 billion South Carolina Retirement Systems on behalf of the South Carolina Public Employee Benefit Association. The investment office was open Thursday.

Megan B. Lightle, PEBA's communications director, said in an email Thursday: "We did close yesterday; however, for the most part, we did not get any of the bad weather. Apparently, the forecast models were right on the line for our county. We are open for business this morning (Thursday)."

PEBA also is in Columbia, an inland city.

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