The State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) today announced the passing of David Villa, its Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer. Mr. Villa, 66, has been with SWIB since 2006 when he joined as Chief Investment Officer. He was named Executive Director in 2018.
“SWIB and the State of Wisconsin have lost a visionary leader and a devoted public servant,” said David Stein, Chairman of SWIB’s Board of Trustees. “For 15 years, David worked tirelessly to build an organization committed to helping Wisconsin’s public sector employees to retire in dignity.”
David joined SWIB with an innovative plan to change the way money was invested at SWIB. He envisioned a destination for investment management talent located in the heart of the Midwest. He also worked to expand SWIB’s statutory investment authority, diversify its holdings into new asset classes, and develop the capability for SWIB to manage assets in house. SWIB manages the more than $120 billion, fully funded Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), which is a model for public pension plans across the country both for its design and its investment leadership. Under David’s leadership, SWIB has grown its internal management from 21% of assets to over 50% of assets, generated strong returns at a lower cost than its peers, and during the last five years added $1.9 billion to the WRS above its performance benchmarks.
“During his 15-year career at SWIB, the last three in the combined roles of Chief Investment Officer and Executive Director, David provided visionary leadership and the strategic direction to forge a stronger and more certain future for thousands of Wisconsin retirees,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “He was deeply committed to innovation and took great pains to remember and remind the talented team he has assembled at SWIB that they have been entrusted with a great responsibility on behalf of Wisconsin families,” he said. “Beyond his work, David was deeply committed to his family, and he never forgot his roots--he was raised in a family of teachers, and he shared lessons in finance and life throughout his distinguished career. Kathy and I are thinking of David’s wife Jane, his family, and all the folks at SWIB, and we join them in mourning this loss.”
David was a life-long learner and encouraged everyone at SWIB to join him in pursuit of ongoing education. David is respected by colleagues near and far as a mentor, teacher, and visionary. For years, David has been globally recognized as a leader and innovator in the asset management industry, and during his tenure he collected numerous accolades and honors, including:
· 2018 Institutional Investor Allocator Lifetime Achievement Award;
· Institutional Investor 2020 Allocator Voices Class recognizing his innovation and leadership;
· 2010 and 2016, Large Public Funds CIO of the year by Institutional Investor Magazine; regularly recognized in CIO Magazine Power 100; and
· 2017 Institutional Investor Allocators’ Choice Award for Team of the Year for making SWIB a home for top talent in American public fund investing.
Due in large part to David’s efforts, SWIB remains in the hands of a seasoned and highly capable management team who have worked closely with David to lead the agency over the last few years. The five members of SWIB’s Management Council will run the agency’s daily operations until the Board of Trustees names an interim Executive Director/Chief Investment Officer. As part of its oversight function, the Board has been discussing with David succession planning for the better part of 2020 and is focused on facilitating a smooth transition of executive leadership.
David never wavered from SWIB’s mission and the plans he had for the agency. His commitment to public employees, retirees, and employers who depend on SWIB to manage the WRS was resolute.
“It was an honor and a privilege to work alongside David,” added Stein. “With his talent, he could have gone anywhere, but he cared so much about SWIB’s mission and beneficiaries that he always felt there was more to do and more to accomplish here in Wisconsin. He will be greatly missed.”
About SWIB and David Villa
SWIB’s strong management of the WRS trust funds has helped fuel one of the only fully funded public pensions in the country on behalf of the nearly 652,000 current and former employees of state agencies, the university system, school districts and most local governments. The WRS is the 9th largest U.S. public pension fund and 25th largest public or private pension fund in the world. SWIB provides a strong, steady economic pillar for the state of Wisconsin by growing the trust funds under its management, managing risk, and optimizing costs over the long term. As of Dec. 31, 2020, the WRS accounts for 90% of the nearly $145 billion of total assets under management at SWIB. In addition to the WRS trust funds, SWIB also serves the state by investing the assets of the State Investment Fund, University of Wisconsin System Trusts Funds, Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund and other funds.
Prior to joining SWIB, David served for two and a half years as the Chief Investment Officer for the State Board of Administration of Florida and twelve years with UBS Global Asset Management, previously Brinson Partners. He began his career with First Chicago and Arthur Andersen. At the time of his death, David served as a trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation, which is the parent organization of the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. He was a member of the 300 Club, a group of leading investment professionals from across the globe, and was serving as a director and treasurer of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, a foundation dedicated to empowering low income families to work together to build their communities. David graduated with a BA in Economics from Princeton University, an MA in Latin American Studies from Stanford University, and an MBA, in Finance and Accounting, from Northwestern University.