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Walter Borst
CEO/CIO, General Motors Asset Management
New York, New York
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For the average corporate CIO, a year marked by the loss of $26 billion in plan assets would likely not be considered one worthy of celebration. But for Walter Borst—CEO, president, and chief investment officer of General Motors Asset Management (GMAM)—the $26 billion reduction of the automaker’s pension assets represented a personal triumph. Borst, formerly GM’s treasurer, was given the unenviable task of managing the company’s pension plans in the aftermath of its 2009 bankruptcy. Faced with daunting liabilities that often exceeded 400% of GM’s market capitalization, he redoubled the funds’ focus on derisking, continuing their migration toward fixed-income investments. This shift into fixed income paid off, says Borst, when GM decided to shed $26 billion of its outsized liability by offering lump-sum buyouts to pensioners and purchasing the largest-ever group annuity contract from Prudential Insurance. The fixed-income tilt of the pension plan “greatly helped with the Prudential transaction,” he explains, by decreasing the risk level of the legacy plan. Borst shares with his wife a German heritage, and travels to the country most summers with his two young boys. Whether or not a Teutonic conservatism is reasserting itself, GM should consider itself blessed to have such a risk-adverse hand guiding its pension assets. “Historically, GM has tried to be at the forefront of new opportunities” in pension management, says Borst. And in his mind, the new opportunities are crystal clear: “We want to be nimble as GM considers additional actions to reduce its pension liability.” –BR

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