SWIB director to step down

The retirement plan lends directly to businesses and invests in third-party managers.

State of Wisconsin Investment Board executive director Michael Williamson will retire at the end of 2017, more than five years after he joined the $108 billion public pension fund in June 2012.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based retirement plan will hire a replacement before Williamson leaves, it said in a statement. Before joining SWIB, the outgoing executive director previously worked at the District of Columbia Retirement Board and the North Carolina Retirement System, according to the statement.

“My decision to retire was not an easy one,” Williamson said. “We exist to deliver real value to the beneficiaries of the funds we manage and we have done that. I will miss being part of this great organisation and working for the public employees of this state, but am looking forward to becoming a beneficiary myself after 41 years of public service.”

Through its private debt program, SWIB lends either senior or subordinate debt directly to businesses based in Wisconsin and the surrounding states, a programme that has been in place since the 1960s and grew under Williamson. As of 30 June 2012, the month the pension fund director joined SWIB, the fair value of the private debt portfolio stood at $409 million and as of 28 February had a market value of $485 million, according to SWIB documents.

Two-thirds of the businesses in SWIB’s portfolio as of 31 December were industrial businesses, with financial companies making up another 20 percent of the portfolio, according to the agenda packet from SWIB’s February meeting. Sixty-six percent of the credits were rated AA.

SWIB also makes commitments to third-party private debt managers through its private equity bucket. In the fourth quarter 2016, the firm committed $100 million to Benefit Street Partners Debt Fund IV, a direct lending fund, and $50 million to Apollo European Principal Finance III, a distressed debt fund targeting European non-performing loans.