The portfolio managers who earned the returns found in the first Pensions & Investments' Performance Evaluation Report universe in February 1977 have gone on to bigger and better things.
Just as the names of the banks and insurance companies have changed, fund management at the institutions has turned over, in most cases numerous times since the mid-1970s.
But several of the commingled fund managers of the '70s remain in the business of investing employee benefit funds.
The firms that topped the performance lists in the February 1977 PIPER were household names then, but most have long since been absorbed by larger regional or national firms. The portfolio managers, too, have moved on.
Terry Maltraich, who managed the fixed-income fund at Cleveland Trust Co. - which finished in the top quartile for the year ended 1976 - became a vice president at First Asset Management, Denver, a division of First Bank Systems, Minneapolis.
Robert B. Yerby, chief investment officer at Hibernia National Bank, New Orleans - who managed the commingled fund that finished in the top quartile for the year, and in fifth and second place among PIPER commingled equity funds for the three- and five-year periods - left Hibernia for jobs in Houston and Charlotte, N.C., but returned to New Orleans when he retired.
Those who remain active in the investment business say it has changed over the years. Some say managing institutional assets was simpler and easier then.
David White and Ralph Kosmicke, co-portfolio managers of what was then Bankers Life Insurance Co. commingled equity fund A1, are both nearing retirement from Invista Capital Management Inc., the investment management subsidiary of Principal Financial Group. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Bankers Life changed its name to Principal Financial in 1985.
The Bankers Life fund finished third for the year ended Dec. 31, 1976, with 35.7%, an enviable return even in today's roaring bull stock market.
"I'd almost bet that there aren't many (original PIPER firms) still in existence from 20 years ago," said Mr. White, vice president, whose fund now holds $7.4 billion from about $1 billion in 1976.
Mr. White looks askance at what he views as today's "hot shots" who "start a fund, get into a data base and then fold into a larger firm." The Invista fund, he said, has adhered to its value style since 1976.
"The 1975-'76 time period was a great time for us because even taking a long-term view, people were loading up on the so-called Nifty 50 stocks, and stocks were cheap," he said.
"Today, there are no big pricing differences in companies and many of today's investors are momentum-oriented. Today, we just try to stay in good companies as a safety net."
Mr. White said he is not optimistic about market prospects. "People think all this grows on trees. Returns (on stocks) may be closer to 5% and not the 14% or so that many have come to expect," he said.
Paul Mindeman, who headed the institutional trust department at Bank of Oklahoma, Tulsa, in the 1970s, has moved on to become president of Trust Co. of Oklahoma, Tulsa. Bank of Oklahoma finished in the top 10 among commingled PIPER equity funds for the one- and three-year periods, and fifth for the year with its commingled fixed-income fund.
Phil Owings headed the institutional marketing for the bank after 1976.
Mr. Owings, now division manager for INTRUST Financial Corp., Wichita, Kan., said he moved to Oklahoma from Alabama after "picking up the paper and reading the PIPER reports and seeing all the good investment performance by institutions in the Southwest. I wondered why there were such good track records there and began to research what was going on out there."
During the late 1970s, said Mr. Owings said, "you started seeing PIPER was the universe and was being used well before all these other firms started offering different universes later on."
The evolution at First Variable Life Insurance Co., Little Rock, Ark., typifies many early PIPER money management firms.
First Variable topped the first PIPER commingled equity fund universe in 1977 for the year and five years ended Dec. 31, 1976. The firm was second for the three years.
First Variable was founded in 1968 by Lee Bodenhamer, a professor at Harvard University. The firm sold variable annuity contracts to qualified plans and individuals and had a common stock account, Fund A, for qualified plans.
Mr. Bodenhamer is now chief investment officer at Meridian Management Co., Little Rock, which was an investment management division of First Variable until 1983, when he purchased it from the insurance company, which at the time was partly owned by Monarch Capital Corp.
"We had a big bear market in the 1973-'74 period. And with our contrarian point of view, when everyone seemed to have given up on the market and people were very negative .*.*. it was a signal to me that we wanted stock and we loaded up," said Mr. Bodenhamer. "It wasn't any particular sector or theme. We found a lot in several different sectors."
At the time, many pension plans were moving away from annuity contracts to fund their pension plans, said Mr. Bodenhamer, and the early PIPER performance of his firm "enabled us to crack into the large plan sponsor market."
He said equity management was easier and more direct in the mid-1970s.
"Investors behaved in a more rational way, and the capital markets did too. If a company got into trouble, there would be someone to turn it around and that was later reflected in the market, and the stock went back up.
"There was a little better mechanism for rationalizing prices then, and there were fewer stocks and fewer investors," he said. "It was understood that a stock could be over- or undervalued and would eventually regress toward the mean. We didn't have the computer data we do today. We had to do more digging and research. It was hard work, but you could believe the market was rational," he said.