Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Inside Colorado PERA

Q&A With PERA’s New CEO/Executive Director Andrew Roth

PERA Executive Director Andrew Roth
PERA Executive Director Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth began his tenure as Colorado PERA’s eighth CEO/Executive Director on Monday, May 13.

PERA On The Issues sat down with Mr. Roth to learn more about him, his experience, and his perspective on the issues facing PERA and its members.

Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell us a little bit about your career and how you ended up working in public pensions.

I started my professional career with the California State Auditor as a performance auditor. The State Auditor taught me how to critically assess government programs and identify and review key documents. After working as a Public Information Officer for the California Department of Social Services, I joined the state securities regulator as their Director of Education and Outreach. There I championed anti-fraud and financial literacy education for seniors, military servicemembers, and youth. That work led to my entry at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) as the Director of Retirement Readiness. Most recently, I was Deputy Director of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS).

You have worked at some of the biggest public pension plans in the country. How do you think that will inform your leadership at PERA?

The experience I’ve gained at CalSTRS and TRS taught me that every pension system is both similar and yet unique. Pension systems share the need to serve members, engage with employers and stakeholders such as the Legislature, and attract and retain the talent necessary to administer a large financial institution with billions of dollars in assets. Each system also operates in a unique environment with its own plan design, statutory and regulatory frameworks, and the organizational culture cultivated by leadership. As I onboard with PERA, I will listen to the terrific talent already in place to determine what works and where opportunity lies to help advance the mission and serve our members.

PERA is often a topic of discussion at the State Legislature and beyond. What’s your approach to engaging with stakeholders?

I see the role of the CEO/Executive Director as one that is primarily external facing. While I will spend time working closely with the executive team and leadership on the high-level decisions my position is responsible for addressing, I will also prioritize serving as the face of Colorado PERA with its stakeholders. This includes member organizations, legislators, state and national pension associations, institutional investor organizations, and other key participants in the pension space. As the CEO/Executive Director, I will approach interactions with an open mind and a listening ear.

There’s been some renewed interest in defined benefit plans in both the public and private sectors. What’s your take on the future of pensions?

I’ve been a proponent of defined benefit plans for 20 years. They are—and in my opinion will remain—an effective solution for helping to ensure retirement security for all Americans. Given the vagaries of the stock market, and the challenge many people experience in making the right financial decisions necessary to fund a retirement, I believe defined benefit plans constitute a bedrock element in the nation’s retirement landscape.

As we develop our next strategic plan, what trends or issues do you think the PERA Board will want to address?

In my experience, the trustees of pension systems tend to focus their attention on issues that involve actuarial soundness, excellent customer service, operational effectiveness, and employer and stakeholder relations. Simply put, that equates to members, employers, financial issues, and operational concerns. I look forward to a collaborative process with the Board, executive staff, stakeholders, and the organization in building a roadmap to continued success for Colorado PERA.

Finally, if you could deliver one message to our active members and retirees, what would it be?

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as the CEO/Executive Director for Colorado PERA. I will work hard every day to ensure the retirement security of PERA’s hardworking members and the sustainability of the fund.

Defined benefitAlso known as a pension, this is a type of pooled retirement plan in which the plan promises to pay a lifetime benefit to the employee at retirement. The plan manages investments on behalf of members, and the retirement benefit is based on factors such as age at retirement, years of employment and salary history.

Comments

  1. Meredith Williams says:

    Welcome to Colorado! Love your background! I served as the Kansas Legislative Post Auditor for nine years before entering the public pension business. I eventually spent 12 years in your role with PERA before concluding with six years running NCTR. Leigh Snell speaks highly of you. Brenda is a winner! So is Marcus! Can I buy you breakfast or lunch some day? I am always available, (with no agenda), at303-378-2881.

    Enjoy!

    Meredith Williams

    • Mark James says:

      I hope Andrew Roth will actually listen to retirees and their continued concerns about the inadequate PERA Annual Increase (AI). The current AI results in a slow, painful death to a retiree’s pension due to inflation erosion. Retirees have been asking the PERA Board and PERS leadership to fix the inadequate AI for years and we are just ignored. Current PERA employees are getting annual raises which will increase their pension benefit and these increases help keep up with inflation. However, retirees don’t have the benefit of going back to work during our old-age years so our standard of living continues to decline. Mr. Roth, I pray that you will listen to current retirees and partner with them to fix the AI.

  2. Mark James says:

    listen to retirees and their continued concerns about the inadequate PERA Annual Increase (AI). The current AI results in a slow, painful death to a retiree’s pension due to inflation erosion. Retirees have been asking the PERA Board and PERS leadership to fix the inadequate AI for years and we are just ignored. Current PERA employees are getting annual raises which will increase their pension benefit and these increases help keep up with inflation. However, retirees don’t have the benefit of going back to work during our old-age years so our standard of living continues to decline. Mr. Roth, I pray that you will listen to current retirees and partner with them to fix the AI.

  3. Mark James says:

    I hope Andrew Roth will actually listen to retirees and their continued concerns about the inadequate PERA Annual Increase (AI). The current AI results in a slow, painful death to a retiree’s pension due to inflation erosion. Retirees have been asking the PERA Board and PERS leadership to fix the inadequate AI for years and we are just ignored. Current PERA employees are getting annual raises which will increase their pension benefit and these increases help keep up with inflation. However, retirees don’t have the benefit of going back to work during our old-age years so our standard of living continues to decline. Mr. Roth, I pray that you will listen to current retirees and partner with them to fix the AI.

  4. Suzanne J Kemp says:

    Dear Mr. Roth,
    Welcome to Colorado. You sound like you’re extremely well-qualified to take a leadership role in PERA. As a retired teacher, I feel extremely lucky to be a member of our defined benefit program. God bless you as you take our members forward in an uncertain time.

  5. Elisabeth Shippey says:

    My primary concern is, and rightfully has been, the solvency of PERA. We cannot get benefit increases if the massive funds are not being expertly managed and with PERA being chastised and controlled by the State. I do not see experience in funds oversight in your background. I just wish PERA would turn over management to a professional organization such as USB, Schwab, RBS, etc. instead of internal personnel.

  6. Paul says:

    Questions for Mr. Roth regarding his statement: “I will work hard every day to ensure the retirement security of PERA’s hardworking members and the sustainability of the fund.”
    1. Do you believe it is possible ensure the retirement security of PERA’s hardworking members without a true COLA in the context of the soaring cost of living?
    2. Can you envision a strategic plan that would enable PERA to both ensure the sustainability of the fund AND lobby the legislature to create/fund a true COLA that would ensure retirement security?

  7. Carolyn DeLaTorre says:

    Welcome! You have a great background for this position. Yes, the Annual COLA situation desperately needs to be addressed as a high priority; it is very unfair to retirees. I am a retiree and a widow on one income and this impacts greatly. Also I realize the WEP situation is a Federal law but we desperately need this finally repealed so we can stop being penalized for working under social security BEFORE our government employment! Taking half of my social security I EARNED before my government employment is a unfair travesty! Please allow PERA to actively advocate for the repeal of WEP!

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