Mercer Global Investment Forums 2023: Atlanta, US (2024)

Defined contribution: The many flavors of delegation
Joseph Park, Director, Benefits, Simon Property Group
Miriam Tolbert, Defined Contribution Segment Leader – Southeast (Moderator)
Shonna Turner, Senior HR Director, North America, Riskonnect, Inc.

Defined contribution (DC) clients and Mercer experts discuss different models of delegation within DC plans, including the process for delegation, the appeal of different models, and the impact on members and HR colleagues.

Defined benefit:The end is just the beginning: Investing through a plan termination
Dave Cantor, Senior Investment Consultant
Chris Ebersole, Co-Chair, Defined Benefit Investment Committee

With plan funded statuses at 15-year highs and plan terminations accelerating, sponsors and their investment consultants/managers need to be prepared to design appropriate investment strategies. Although current hedging techniques are well known and employed, each plan termination requires a unique solution. In this session, we introduce a framework and discuss a case study in which the approach was successfully deployed.

E&F and Healthcare:Old issues, new questions: Alternatives in endowment portfolios
Gurjeet Dosanjh, Private Markets Consultant
John Jackson, Global Leader Hedge Funds Research
Kenny Pitman, Alternatives Investment Director

Each market cycle raises new questions about old issues: liquidity, rates and the evolution of capital markets. In this breakout, we explore the ramifications of the latest trends on the use of alternative investments in endowment portfolios.

Wealth management:Managing portfolios in a changing economic landscape
Jason Blackwell, Chief Investment Strategist, The Colony Group
Steve Doorn, SVP, Director of Portfolio Management, Legacy Trust
David Hyman, Senior Wealth Management Leader (Moderator)
Brian Pollak, Partner, Portfolio Manager, Evercore

The past decade, ending in 2021, was one of the best on record for traditional 60/40 portfolios. Investors now face elevated levels of inflation, higher interest rates and increased market volatility. Additionally, investors are rethinking globalization and considering ESG more thoughtfully. Ensuring portfolios are well diversified both across and within asset classes — as well as by geography, sectors, factors, investment styles and nontraditional market beats — remains critical.

Defined contribution:Mercer’s new defined contribution investment structure: The consultant and asset manager perspective
Jennifer Archer, Head of Institutional Defined Contribution & Consultants Sales, JP Morgan
Holly Verdeyen, US Defined Contribution Leader

Mercer’s new objectives-based defined contribution (DC) investment menu provides the backdrop for a debate about active versus passive in US large-cap equity, lifetime income implementation and the core DC menu options.

Defined benefit:Higher rates, higher stakes: How are you setting your hedging strategy?
Julia Kotchetkov, Senior Pension Strategy and Solutions Consultant
Erin Lefkowitz, Senior Fixed Income Portfolio Manager, OCIO

With the significant rise in interest rates during 2022, we find ourselves in a very different rate environment than we’ve seen in recent history. We discuss what that means for DB plan liability-hedging portfolios, covering the rules of the road for setting hedging strategy, how those rules may have changed in this new environment and what you should be thinking about from an implementation perspective.

E&F and Healthcare:Higher learning: What the NACUBO survey really says
Geoff Wilson, Senior Investment Consultant
Texas Hemmaplardh, Not-for-Profit Business Leader

At the end of every fiscal year, the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) surveys higher-education institutions on the investment management practices of their endowment portfolios. In this session, Mercer discusses some of the not-so-obvious insights and trends presenting important lessons for endowment fiduciaries.

Wealth management:Differentiating wealth management firms with an alternatives investment program
Toussaint Bailey, CEO/Founder, Uplifting Capital
Molly Bennard, CEO, Connectus Wealth Advisors
Andrew Snyder, Director, Product & Research, CAIS Group
Casey Wamsley, Senior Investment Consultant (Moderator)

We focus on the best practices for building out robust alternatives programs within wealth management, including reducing risk, lowering costs and achieving better client outcomes. This session outlines clear strategic plans for outlining institutional approaches to alternatives programs, including hedge funds, private equity, private debt and real estate. Avoiding the “flavor of the day,” this panel discusses how focusing on governance and strategy delivers differentiated outcomes for clients.

Defined contribution: Taking diversification to the next level
Kelly Henson, Senior Investment Consultant
Hugh Merkel, DC OCIO Portfolio Management Leader

As American retirement savings continue to shift from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) plans, many DC plan sponsors are facing an increasingly complex challenge. Tasked with providing their employees with access to best-in-class retirement benefits, they’re also navigating an ever-changing legislative landscape and an increasingly litigious environment. As a result, plan sponsors are focusing on offering robust investment options for their participants’ portfolios. These sponsors seek to include less-traditional asset classes to improve participant outcomes via greater net-of-fee risk-adjusted returns. In this session, we discuss how DC plan sponsors can take diversification to the next level for the benefit of their participants while also complying with new legislation and navigating fiduciary governance concerns.

Defined benefit:Rethinking the return seeking portfolio for a new environment
Neeraj Baxi, US Defined Benefit Investment Research Director
Stephanie Lane, US DB OCIO Asset Allocation Leader

This session explores how to build a more effective return-seeking portfolio for a changed economic environment in which public equity is no longer the obvious solution. We tackle some of the hurdles plans face and explore how to overcome barriers to building the optimal portfolio.

E&F and Healthcare:Annual check-up: Taking the vitals of not-for-profit healthcare investment portfolios
Chris Cozzoni, Healthcare Practice Leader
Chris Kuhlman, Senior Investment Consultant

Many hospitals and healthcare systems are experiencing shrinking margins due to soaring costs for labor, goods and services. As a result, healthcare allocators are ensuring their investment portfolios have ample cash and liquidity to support the shortfalls from operations. At the same time, they need to generate returns to compensate for declining margins. In this session, we discuss how healthcare investors are positioning portfolios in the face of mounting operational challenges and volatile markets.

Wealth management: Balance sheet strategies
Thomas Hettinger, Strategic Advisory Leader, Guy Carpenter
Chris Tschida, Head of US Insurance

Guy Carpenter and Mercer experts discuss the benefits of holistically managing risk and capital for insurance companies. By aligning underwriting and investment risk through an enterprise view, insurance companies can improve the stability and growth of company value over time.

Defined contribution: DEI within DC plans
Jennifer Flodin, Central Region DC Leader
Tamara Larsen, US ESG Investments Practice Leader Keisha Olinger, Atlanta Office Leader (Moderator)

Using the tools of plan design, demographic analysis/personas and investment strategies, we examine ways to apply a DEI lens to retirement savings.

Defined benefit:Are alternative assets the ‘secret sauce’ your corporate defined benefit plan needs?
Nick Davies, Large Client Leader
Amy Ridge, Investment Director – Private Markets

Worried about complexity and cost in your defined benefit plan? Thinking about de-risking and possible pension annuity buyouts or plan termination? Concerned that alternative assets are expensive and illiquid? This session addresses these issues and discusses how to get the best out of alternatives to mitigate the cost while managing your pension plan risk. In the process, we sort the facts from the myths of investing in alternative assets.

E&F and Healthcare:Portfolio liquidity: What is it good for?
Chris Kuhlman, Senior Investment Consultant
Don Wehrmann, Senior Investment Consultant

Not-for-profit investors are reexamining their liquidity needs amid a rapidly evolving operating and market environment. As allocations to illiquid investments increase, institutions are searching for an efficient balance between maximizing returns and maintaining sufficient liquidity. In this session, we discuss how investors should evolve their portfolio liquidity needs.

Insurers:Private markets for insurers
Nelson Pereira, Alternatives Investment Director
Stephanie Thomes, Senior Insurance Investment Consultant

Insurers across various liabilities and size continue to allocate to the private markets to improve returns and grow surplus. Sustained growth in this area is unsurprising following a decade of low interest rates and the creation of more capital-efficient structures for US insurers. As a result, allocations to private markets have become a vital component of insurance companies’ investment strategies.

Defined Contribution Plans

Defined contribution (DC) plans are a type of retirement plan in which the employer and/or employee contribute a set amount of money to an individual account for each participant. The final retirement benefit is determined by the contributions made and the investment returns earned on those contributions. There are different models of delegation within DC plans, which involve the process of assigning responsibility for investment decisions to various parties. These models can impact the members of the plan as well as HR colleagues. The appeal of different models of delegation lies in their ability to provide expertise and guidance in managing the investment options within the plan [[1]].

Defined Benefit Plans

Defined benefit (DB) plans are another type of retirement plan in which the employer promises to pay a specified benefit to the employee upon retirement. The benefit is typically based on a formula that takes into account factors such as the employee's salary and years of service. With plan terminations becoming more common and plan funded statuses at 15-year highs, sponsors and their investment consultants/managers need to be prepared to design appropriate investment strategies for plan terminations. Each plan termination requires a unique solution, and current hedging techniques may need to be adjusted accordingly [[2]].

Endowments and Foundations (E&F) and Healthcare

Endowments and foundations (E&F) as well as healthcare institutions face unique challenges when it comes to investment management. In the case of E&F, each market cycle raises new questions about old issues such as liquidity, interest rates, and the evolution of capital markets. The use of alternative investments in endowment portfolios is an important consideration in navigating these challenges [[3]].

For healthcare institutions, shrinking margins due to rising costs and the need to generate returns to compensate for declining margins pose significant challenges. Healthcare investors must position their portfolios to support operational challenges while also navigating volatile markets [[4]].

Wealth Management

Wealth management involves managing the assets and investments of high-net-worth individuals and families. In a changing economic landscape, wealth managers face challenges such as elevated levels of inflation, higher interest rates, increased market volatility, and changing investor preferences. Diversification across asset classes, sectors, factors, investment styles, and nontraditional market beats is critical to ensuring well-diversified portfolios [[5]].

Mercer's Perspective

Mercer, a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement, and investments, offers insights and perspectives on various aspects of retirement plans and investment strategies. They provide a new defined contribution investment structure that focuses on objectives-based investment menus, active versus passive investment strategies, and lifetime income implementation [[6]]. Mercer also discusses the impact of rising interest rates on defined benefit plan liability-hedging portfolios and the rules for setting hedging strategies in this new rate environment [[7]]. Additionally, they analyze the investment management practices of endowment portfolios in higher-education institutions and highlight important insights and trends for endowment fiduciaries [[8]]. Mercer also addresses the benefits of holistically managing risk and capital for insurance companies and the role of private markets in insurers' investment strategies [[9]].


Defined contribution plans, defined benefit plans, endowments and foundations, healthcare institutions, and wealth management all have unique considerations and challenges when it comes to investment management. Mercer provides expertise and insights in these areas, offering solutions and strategies to help navigate the complex landscape of retirement plans and investments.

Mercer Global Investment Forums 2023: Atlanta, US (2024)
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