CalPERS lists ‘core competencies’ for members

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has approved a list of “core competencies” designed to help educate and train its members to better run the nation’s largest public pension fund.

The list of topics board members must have knowledge of include understanding financial statements, economic principles and actuarial methods. CalPERS, which covers  nearly 3 million workers and retirees in its health and pension plans, also said board governance, health care, pension plans, financial markets and communication were on the list of subjects approved by the board.

"The issues and topics we address are some of the most diverse and complex of any entity – public or private – in the country," said Rob Feckner, president of the board. "These criteria are designed to enhance the competency of the board and will help us better serve our members and employers."

CalPERS, like many public pensions systems, has been under pressure from politicians to make changes to ensure future benefits can be paid. Gov. Jerry Brown pushed pension reform through the state legislature that is being challenged by unions. Brown promised the reforms would save $30 billion, although no time frame was specified.

Changing assumptions about investment returns have raised the amount of future unfunded liabilities faced by retirement systems. Bankruptcies, like in Detroit and Vallejo, Calif., have added to the problems.

Earlier this year, CalPERS issued a list of 10 investment beliefs, which it said would guide its actions.

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