An early response to the COVID-19 crisis and the lessons learned from the financial crisis of 2008 have served the Washington State Investment Board well, said Theresa Whitmarsh, executive director of the Olympia-based board.
Even though the circumstances of the current crisis are unique, Ms. Whitmarsh said those lessons have benefited the board, which oversees $141.8 billion in assets including $109.8 billion in defined benefit plan assets.
"We really learned leading up to the market crisis how to prepare a board and stakeholders for a market correction," Ms. Whitmarsh said in a telephone interview.
In fact, the board has been in a role of preparedness for the last year and a half, Ms. Whitmarsh said. They just knew some kind of market correction had to occur because the 12-year bull market was not sustainable.
"We sent that same kind of message to our board and stakeholders, just preparing them for some kind of correction," Ms. Whitmarsh said.
That education included making sure the board and beneficiaries are well aware that the board is a long-term investor, and it seems to have worked out, she said.
"There has been very little concern or questions voiced to us from any of our beneficiaries or our board, and I think part of it is that the Great Recession is still relatively fresh in the mind of a lot of people and we came out of that," Ms. Whitmarsh said.