Almost everyone involved with pension fund investing racks up thousands of miles a year on aircraft. Air travel is an inevitable part of the business. Marketing executives, portfolio managers and consultants fly to meet with clients and prospective clients almost weekly. Clients and prospective clients fly to visit their money managers.
It should be no surprise then, that occasionally a member of the pension fraternity is lost in an air crash.
It should be no surprise, but it is, and it shocks and hurts. It hurts especially when it is someone like Roger Bransford, who was killed in the crash of Comair Flight 3272 near Detroit.
It seemed Roger knew almost everyone in the industry, and liked everyone in the industry. There may have been a few who didn't like Roger, but I never met them.
Roger was outgoing and always upbeat, and he was incredibly enthusiastic.
I first met Roger in early 1974, just a few months after Pensions & Investments was launched, and when I was still struggling mightily to understand pension fund investment management.
Roger, then in the funds evaluation group at A. G. Becker, patiently explained to me the intricacies of pension fund performance measurement.
Actually, "patiently" doesn't do justice to how Roger explained. "Enthusiastically" and "articulately" are far better.
I met Roger a couple of times a year after that, occasionally on a plane. And his excitement about pension fund investing never flagged over the years. I came to think of him not just as a business acquaintance, but as a friend.
The last time I saw Roger was over breakfast in Atlanta in December. Then he enthusiastically explained to Vineeta Anand, one of P&I's Washington reporters, and me, the trends he saw developing in the pension world, especially in defined contribution plans, and developments at Watson Wyatt Worldwide.
The key to Roger's enthusiasm was that he was excited by new ideas and by challenges.
There are few parts of the business world where new ideas are developed as often as they are in pension fund investing: new ideas about a particular stock or group of stocks; new ideas about how to select stocks or bonds; new ideas about how the capital markets work and how to profit from theseworkings; even whole new classes of securities or derivatives.
Roger's intellectual curiosity was engaged by these ideas. And that curiosity gave him a restlessness that led him to work for eight different companies in four different parts of the business in the 22 years I knew him. Roger couldn't resist a new challenge, working with new people, serving new clients. He was on his way to visit a client in Michigan when he died.
Roger was often quoted in the pages of P&I, providing insight and analysis. He is quoted in one or two stories in this issue from interviews two weeks ago. No matter where he was on the road, he always took the time to return calls from our reporters.
I'll miss Roger as a friend. My reporters will miss him as a source of intelligent comment. His clients will miss him as a friend and a resource. The industry will miss him.