David Villa Tacks On Executive Director Title to CIO Gig

The State of Wisconsin Investment Board, in giving him two jobs, fills the vacancy left by Rick Smirl’s departure. 

David Villa

David Villa, chief investment officer of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board ($117 billion), has again expanded his duties, adding the title of executive director to his role.

Villa, who replaces Rick Smirl, has been the board’s CIO since 2006. He is most known for bringing many of the Wisconsin Retirement System’s $109.5 billion in assets under internal management. This cost-minded strategy has saved the fund millions over the years.

Villa placed 17th on CIO’s 2017 Power 100 list, which annually highlights the best in the asset owner industry.

Smirl left the investment board in July to become chief operating officer of Russell Investments. Rochelle Klaskin, the board’s chief legal counsel, had been the interim executive director since then. She will now become the deputy executive director/chief administrative officer, a new title.

Klaskin’s old job is up for grabs.

Trustees of the board determined that merging the executive director and CIO jobs would “best fit” the organization’s pace and “the infrastructure that supports it.” Other large pension plans, such as the Florida State Board of Administration ($176.4 billion), the New York City Retirement System ($195.7 billion), and the $71.6 billion Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Board, are also led by an executive director/CIO.

Ash Williams, the head of the Florida board, was CIO’s 2017 lifetime achievement honoree at its eighth annual Innovation Awards gala.

Board of Trustees Chairman David Stein, said Villa “leads the agency’s core business, its investment management teams.” He added that the promotion “was a natural next step for SWIB.”

The organization consists of the Wisconsin Retirement System and six separately managed trust funds. It is one of the few fully funded public pension plans in the country.

Villa could not be reached for comment.


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