Magazine

Cover | Published in March 2008

Public Plan Sponsor of the Year: State of Missouri: "Show Me" State

In late January, as the markets roiled, Steve Holmes and other Summit Strategies Group consultants had a five-hour meeting with investment staffers at their client, the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System (MOSERS).

By Judy Ward | March 2008
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In late January, as the markets roiled, Steve Holmes and other Summit Strategies Group consultants had a five-hour meeting with investment staffers at their client, the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System (MOSERS). Were the folks from the $8.2 billion public fund focused on retrenching or defensive moves? Hardly.

Photo by Ron Berg

Gary Findlay, MOSERS

"Nobody was panicking," says Holmes, President of the St. Louis-based Summit. "It was, 'Do you think we are too early for the bargain-hunting?'" So they brainstormed ideas about how to move into areas such as subprime mortgages. "It does not get any better than that for an investment professional," he says.

The Missouri system—which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007 and has about 100,500 participants—has an innovative and very flexible organizational structure that lets it take advantage of opportunities, Holmes says. "It has allowed MOSERS to be more nimble than any public fund I have ever seen," he says.

Not that MOSERS is contrarian for contrarian's sake. "I do not think that they want to be different for the sake of being different," Holmes adds. "I think they want to be different for the sake of making money."

Nominations for the Missouri fund as Plan Sponsor of the Year cited discussions with officials from large state funds about how to emulate "the MOSERS way." That does not surprise Keith Brainard, Austin, Texas-based Research Director for the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA). "I think they are best known for creating an environment of excellence in governance and management that is worth considering emulating," he says. "Many people in the public-pension community look to [Executive Director] Gary Findlay and MOSERS for ideas and examples on public-pension administration and management."

Todd Smith recalls going to a public-fund conference as a new MOSERS board member in 2003 and being surprised by the fund's reputation nationally. "It is just phenomenal that we are a relatively small fund, but people look to us," says Smith, who stepped down as board chairman in January but who remains on the board. "I think that is because of our track record. Our goal is to be the absolute best in investments and in our service to our customers."

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