The Board of Trustees of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) announced today that they have appointed Edwin Denson as the next executive director/chief investment officer (ED/CIO) of SWIB. Denson’s appointment follows the passing of SWIB ED/CIO David Villa on Feb. 13, 2021. SWIB manages more than $143 billion, including the fully funded Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).
“SWIB is fortunate to have someone with Edwin’s talent and experience, who is ready to take on this leadership role,” said David Stein, chair of the independent SWIB Board of Trustees. “He combines a deep understanding of SWIB’s innovative investment strategy with a wealth of expertise in both public and private sector asset management. While SWIB continues to mourn the loss of David Villa, the Board is confident that Edwin is best positioned to take SWIB forward and continue to deliver results for the WRS.”
Denson joined SWIB in 2018 as the managing director of asset and risk allocation (ARA), responsible for risk analysis, allocation and oversight, asset allocation, passive portfolio and leverage implementation, macroeconomic analysis, and fund-level investment strategies, and he serves on SWIB’s Management Council. During his time at SWIB, he has more than doubled the ARA staff to build out innovative investment strategies for the WRS. Before joining SWIB, he was a managing director and head of strategic tilting at the $475 billion Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), where he and his team drove one of the three primary sources of investment return. Prior to joining CPPIB in 2013, Denson spent 13 years in asset allocation, currency, and risk management as a portfolio manager at William Blair & Company, a managing member at Singer Partners LLC, and a managing director and head of asset allocation at UBS Global Asset Management. Earlier in his career, Denson was an economist at Lehman Brothers, Primark Decision Economics, and Putnam Investments, and he also briefly managed a commodity trading adviser and a quantitative equity strategy.
“I am grateful for the trust of the Board and honored to be leading such a talented and dedicated staff. I am continually impressed by their passion for their work and desire to succeed on behalf of WRS participants,” said Denson. “I felt lucky to have known David for almost 20 years and to have worked closely with him again over the last few. Now, I am eager to build on his vision, strategy and direction for the agency as we continue to create a world-class investment management organization.”
In 2018, Trustees combined the roles of executive director and CIO when Villa was appointed to head SWIB. This governance structure continues to fit SWIB’s increasingly sophisticated investment organization and the infrastructure that supports it. The Trustees were able to take advantage of SWIB’s deep bench of talent by appointing Denson as ED/CIO, choosing a successor within the agency. Denson will lead a strong management team, which serves alongside the ED/CIO to run the agency. Each member of SWIB’s executive management team has on average more than 25 years of leadership and industry experience.
“The Board has been engaged in succession planning for a number of years. With Edwin at the helm, we can take advantage of SWIB’s continued momentum, build on our ongoing success, support the current culture, and continue our key strategic priorities, including to recruit top talent and retain our award-winning staff,” said Stein.
Denson holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Cornell University and a PhD in economics from Northwestern University, specializing in macroeconomics and econometrics.
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 648,000 current and former employees of state agencies, the university system, school districts and most local governments. The WRS is the 8th 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. In the last five years, SWIB’s management has added $1.9 billion above its benchmark to the WRS. In the last ten years, according to an independent cost consultant, SWIB has saved $1.3 billion in costs over its peers.
As of December 31, 2020, the WRS accounts for approximately 90% of the more than $143.9 billion of total assets under management at SWIB. In addition to the more than $129.7 billion in 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. For more information about SWIB, visit www.swib.state.wi.us.