More than 100 veterans from the pension battles of the '70s and '80s (and even the '90s) gathered for a reunion in lower Manhattan late last month. While many of them had retired from the field, a number are still engaged in the fray.
And most of those who had officially retired are still connected to the pension or investment world, at least part time.
The gathering was organized by Rick Tyner, who retired in 2001 as president of McDermott International Investments. It was sparked by a group of execs swapping recollections of the 1987 market meltdown.
The attendees comprised a virtual who's who of key players in the pension field in the boom period of the defined benefit pension plan and included pension plan executives, marketing executives, consultants and even some journalists (yes, they let a few of us in).
Myra Drucker, who began her career with INA Capital Management and later ran the pension funds at Xerox Corp. and International Paper Co., was there. Myra serves on eight boards, four for profit and three non-profits, and is chairwoman of the board at The Common Fund.
Another top pension executive attending was W. Allen Reed, who began his career with Delta Air Lines Inc. and ended up running the biggest corporate defined benefit fund at General Motors Corp. Allen retired near Charleston, S.C., but also commits his time to boards and charity work.
Marv Damsma, who started his career with Upjohn Co., moved to the New York City pension funds where he indexed the bond portfolio and eliminated a large negative alpha then joined BP PLC where for 21 years he was director of trust investments, reported that he had retired in April but has started a business. He bought the license to further develop and market software he had pioneered at BP that gathers all documents and data involved with the management of the fund (paper documents, e-mails, performance and transaction data, etc.), stores it and makes it easily retrievable.
The information can be converted for governance, analytics and risk management. The system, called Octopus Technological Solutions, also provides a warning when some critical document or piece of data is missing. That's going to keep Marv busy in retirement.
Art Williams, who ran the Merrill Lynch pension plan, started Pine Grove Associates, a manager of managers with more than $1 billion under management.
Other former plan sponsors included Bob Shultz, who oversaw pension funds at IBM Corp. and RJR-Nabisco before joining The Common Fund and is now on several boards; Judy Mares Lazar, chief investment officer at Ameritech Corp. and before that, assistant treasurer at General Mills Inc.; and Ralph DiFiori, who was director of retirement fund at McDonnell Douglas Corp., NCR Corp. and Owens Illinois Inc. before venturing into the investment banking world at Chatsworth Securities LLC with another former plan sponsor, Harold Becker, formerly with CBS Corp.
Among marketing executives was Bob Reynolds, former vice chairman and chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments who began his career early in the '70s with North Carolina National Bank. Bob keeps his hand in the investment world through private investing.
As someone commented, the gathering was like a combined National Investment Sponsor Federation (now defunct) and Association of Investment Management Sales Executives meeting.
Careers of the attendees reflected the rise and gradual decline of defined benefit pension plans, and all of the investment approaches they pioneered. It was a blast from the past.