When David Bronner started as CEO at the Retirement Systems of Alabama 50 years ago, he said the pension fund had less than $1 billion in assets.
Today, RSA oversees about $50 billion in assets, which includes the Teachers' Retirement System and Employees' Retirement System.
Mr. Bronner, who holds a law degree and a doctorate from the University of Alabama, took on the state's retirement system at only 28 years old. He said this was an atypical move, as many heads of public pension funds at the time were previously politicians, just entering their roles in their 50s and 60s.
Over the last 50 years, Mr. Bronner said the biggest change he's seen in the retirement industry is its growth, noting, "The bigger you become, in your state, the bigger that you're going to have more difficult and damning problems to deal with," such as politicians going after the fund in down times or the greater need for a more talented investment team.
The job of CEO is "basically a daily challenge," Mr. Bronner said, which is part of the reason he's stayed for so long. While RSA was 25% funded when Mr. Bronner started, it reached fully funded status in 2001, and is now down to about 70%, he said.
He cited the other reason for staying as being able to help those less fortunate, and "changing their lives without them knowing it."
At the age of 78, Mr. Bronner has no plans of his own to retire, adding, "I get bored easily."
"It's really not work to me," he said. "It's excitement and (an) opportunity to make, in my case, a little better Alabama."