After quitting her last job, Ann Combs went to her niece's wedding, cleaned her closet and began job hunting.
But when you're the former assistant labor secretary and head of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, you don't have to worry too much about your next gig. On Jan. 4, The Vanguard Group, Malvern, Pa., announced Ms. Combs will join the company on Feb. 5 as principal and head of its newly created institutional strategic consulting group. Ms. Combs left the Department of Labor in October after a five-and-a-half-year stint that included playing a major role in formulating the Pension Protection Act.
"I've been having a great time," Ms. Combs said of her brief hiatus. "It's a big change for me, and I feel really good about the decision and the company that I am joining."
F. William McNabb, managing director of Vanguard's institutional investor group, said "the sky is the limit" in terms of what the company expects of Ms. Combs.
"There is a ton of change afoot in the retirement markets overall, and she will be joining a senior team which is charged with helping clients and their employees get ready for retirement," Mr. McNabb said. "Her experience and culture and values is a great fit."
One of Ms. Combs' responsibilities will be engaging public policy makers in Washington so they can pass regulation that makes it easier for people to save "adequate amounts to live in a dignified retirement." she said.
"That's very consistent with what my goals and objectives were at the Labor Department, so to be able to work on those issues from the private sector side, where I think the solutions really lie, is really exciting," Ms Combs said.
The defined contribution industry is at a crossroads, and changes still need to be made to ensure that working Americans are taking advantage of 401(k) plans and saving for retirement. That is a tough challenge, considering that half the work force doesn't have a retirement plan, she said.
"I think retirement security is really a public policy issue, and this is the moment and we have a real opportunity to make a difference." Ms. Combs said.