Investment approach supports Ohio

OPERS works with many businesses in the Buckeye State

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Nov. 15, 2018 – As the largest public pension fund in Ohio, OPERS supports economic growth in the Buckeye State.

We thus have many investments with Ohio-based companies, from holdings in small, privately held companies to shares of some of the biggest in the state. Our goal is to help support the businesses that provide Ohioans with jobs, wealth and a better way of life.

Ohio law directs OPERS to consider investment managers “that enhance the general welfare of the state and its citizens.” These Ohio-qualified investment managers must offer similar “quality, return and safety comparable to other investments currently available to the Board.”

Like other Ohio public pension funds, OPERS has established a policy regarding Ohio-qualified investments or managers. To be Ohio-qualified, a company must satisfy at least one of the following criteria:

  • Have its corporate headquarters or principal place of business, in Ohio.
  • Employ at least 500 in Ohio.
  • Have a principal place of business in Ohio and employ at least 20 residents of the state.

Our Ohio-qualified investment managers in private equity, real estate, public markets, as well as our work with Ohio-qualified brokers, have in general had a positive impact for our members and retirees. We make the investments consistent with our fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of our participants and their beneficiaries.

Let’s look at some of those investments.

Private equity

OPERS began investing in Ohio-based private equity managers in the mid-1980s. From 1985-2004, we made more than $200 million in 14 fund commitments to six Ohio-based managers. While these managers made investments in Ohio, they also invested outside the state.

In 2005, we transitioned from investing in funds and created a fund-of-funds approach with the Ohio-Midwest program to better comply with the size of investments we make. Credit Suisse was the first manager to oversee the program, followed by Permal Capital Management, which renamed itself Glouston Capital Partners in 2016.

Glouston’s staff is responsible for identifying and evaluating potential funds for the program, and those funds supply capital to individual companies.

OPERS has committed $400 million to the Ohio-Midwest Funds since the program’s inception, with more than $238 million of that commitment invested as of Dec. 31. The Ohio-Midwest program has invested in more than 100 Ohio companies since its inception.

Other OPERS-backed private-equity managers also find viable opportunities to invest in Ohio. As of year-end 2017, these managers held about $74 million worth of investments in 15 Ohio companies.

Real estate

OPERS works with several real estate managers with operations in Ohio, and we have made many direct investments in real estate projects across the state.

They include direct investments to several Ohio-qualified real estate managers, including JP Morgan, Fillmore and Rockbridge. Our separate accounts include 13 properties valued at $250 million, and we own an additional four Ohio properties through our investments in commingled funds.

External public markets

At the end of 2017, OPERS had investments with seven Ohio-qualified public markets managers worth nearly $2 billion. They include companies in our emerging manager program, which we created in 2011 to identify managers that are either Ohio-qualified or minority-owned. These managers must have assets under management between $60 million and $1.25 billion.

Other Ohio investments

OPERS’ commitment to Ohio extends beyond external money managers. For instance, last year we transacted more than $10 billion in notional bond value with Ohio-qualified brokers. We paid nearly $4 million in custodial and banking fees, mostly to Ohio-related institutions, and we paid another $5 million in fees to Ohio-qualified asset managers.

Finally, the OPERS investment staff internally manages more than $54 billion, saving many millions in management fees and allowing us to take a hands-on approach to preserving our members’ retirement security.

Michael Pramik

Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

  • Opers investment priorities should first be to obtain the largest most stable return for members and retirees not to satisfy any political agenda.

    • OPERS is a non-partisan organization, and therefore do not invest with a political agenda. As fiduciaries, our priority is to provide a pension for current and future retirees.

  • Lets go back to when I first retired from the State of Ohio 1999. Our Medical Insurance was all taken care of by the State of Ohio. It was GREAT. Now we have to go to South Jordan, Utah and talk to VIA Benefits. I have spent hours on the phone trying to get the right information. Plus all the paper work to get things done right. I have more papers to trash at the end of the year than I have every had. You can’t be saving money. If you were going to go this way, why didn’t you get an OHIO company to do the job.

    • The cost of health care has increased tremendously since 1999, and OPERS is not immune to those increases.

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