The investment performance of Rhode Island’s pension fund is lagging behind its peers under the new mix of assets adopted by Treasurer Gina Raimondo and the State Investment Commission that relies more heavily on hedge funds, data released Tuesday suggests.
Rhode Island’s $7.7 billion pension fund earned 9.81% during the 12 months ended March 31, according to Bank of New York Mellon Corp., its custodial bank. By comparison, the median public-sector plan with assets of at least $5 billion earned 10.5% over the same period, Wilshire Associates Inc. reported Tuesday.
Raimondo has acknowledged her new investment strategy, approved unanimously by the investment commission in 2011, could reduce the state’s investment return somewhat, but argues it will benefit the state in the long run by reducing risk and volatility.
“The improvements made by the State Investment Commission to the investment portfolio were designed to deliver strong, long-term returns, while reducing risk to provide a secure retirement for public employees and retirees,” Raimondo spokeswoman Joy Fox told WPRI.com. “The SIC’s strategies should be evaluated against long-term returns, not against any particular immediate snapshot.”
Rhode Island’s pension investments also grew more slowly over the three years and five years ended March 31 compared with the median plan of at least $5 billion, according to Wilshire and BNY Mellon. However, Rhode Island’s return over the 10-year period ended March 31 was 8.78%, better than the median plan’s 8.59%. Rhode Island’s plan also beat the internal benchmark it uses for comparison purposes:
The median plan’s performance published by Santa Monica-based Wilshire comes from its Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service, which tracks more than 1,700 public and private investment plans that control more than $3.4 trillion in assets. A Wilshire spokeswoman declined to disclose how many of those are public plans with at least $5 billion worth of assets.
• Related: Raimondo puts 14% in hedge funds, 10 times US median (April 29)