I’m a big believer that we can learn from a variety of decision-makers. So it is with appreciation (and the proverbial hat tip) to Robert Elder for pointing out comments made by Frederick "Shad" Rowe, chairman of the Texas Pension Review Board. Robert pens an interesting Texas-centric blog called "Public Capital" and draws attention to Rowe’s April 11, 2008 criticism of investment time travel that emphasizes past performance.
Recounting a Wayne Gretzky quote that "he skated not to where the puck was, but where it was going to be," Rowe excoriates investment consultants who "lead their clients not to where the puck is going to be or even where it is now, but instead to where it was three years ago." A 35-year investment veteran, Rowe further suggests that pension trustees are unwise to eschew long-term oriented investing in favor of strategies du jour such as (his words) "so-called ‘alternative’ investments, including private equity, where investment consultants are attempting to reduce what they call ‘risk’ and patching together a crazy quilt of ‘uncorrelated’ assets." Regarding commodities, he offers that the markets are too small to absorb the billions of dollars being thrown their way. Not a fan of international currency plays, Rowe thinks that pressure on the U.S. dollar will likely worsen economic conditions stateside. He urges pensions to think twice before investing in activism strategies that ignore company fundamentals.
Click to read Rowe’s comments in their entirety. (In the spirit of encouraging productive debate, this blog welcomes comments from investment consultants about time orientation.)
Editor’s Note: According to their website, the Texas Pension Review Board is "mandated to oversee all Texas public retirement systems, both state and local, in regard to their actuarial soundness and compliance with state law." Interestingly, there is a section about how the board is appointed. Worth reading, it is a rare example of documented experiential requirements. In this case, three of nine board members must have "experience in the field of securities investment, pension administration, or pension law." The board must also consist of an actuary, someone with "experience in governmental finance" and "a contributing member of a public retirement system."