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Ohio teacher retirement fund dives after SVB collapse

By Sarah May on
 March 17, 2023

As the fallout from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank continues to emerge, The Hill reports that multiple retirement funds for public sector employees in Ohio lost millions in investments previously made in the ill-fated financial institution.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System suffered the largest losses of the group, having held shares valued at $27.2 million, and a statement from the pension system indicated that officials would continue monitoring and assessing the impact of the bank's failure on its continued health.

Bank crisis hits retirement funds

As the Dispatch further noted, the Teachers Retirement System's holdings in SVB amounted to 0.03% of the fund's total holdings, and it did not hold any shares in Signature Bank.

Also hit by the bank collapses, however, was the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, which had SVB shares valued at $3.2 million as well as $2.2 million worth of Signature Bank shares, which, taken together, amounted to 0.0058 of the funds complete portfolio of investments.

Losses were notched by the School Employees Retirement System as well, which caters to non-instructional staff such as cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and the like, and those reportedly totaled $929,000, or 0.01% of the fund's portfolio.

While the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund had no shares in SVB, it did suffer estimated losses of $320,000 due to its shares in the Russell 1000 Index Fund, as the Dispatch explained.

Ohio not alone

As the Raleigh News & Observer reported, North Carolina's own state retirement system sustained noteworthy losses as a result of the bank collapses of last week.

The pension fund held $10.1 million worth of shares in SVB as well as $7.8 million in Signature Bank, according to the Department of State Treasurer.

Though Frank Lester, a spokesperson for the state Treasury explained that the total amount was just a tiny fraction of the system's overall value, it remained unclear whether the funds would be recovered.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell told the News & Observer on Wednesday that the Signature and SVB shares had not been directly purchased but were rather the result of investments placed with index funds.

Losses continue to mount

As the Daily Mail reported, the aforementioned losses spread to a host of other state retirement systems as well, including the California Public Employees' Retirement Fund, which held $67 million in SVB shares and another $11 million in Signature Bank.

The plan's chief investment officer, Nicole Musicco, said on Monday, “Those are the assets at risk, likely at loss, but in the grand scheme of things a small percentage of our overall portfolio,” which reportedly has a value of $457.4 billion.

The employee retirement system in Rhode Island stands to suffer a loss as well, as it had a total of $2.5 million sunk into the failed pair of banks, with investments also outstanding in First Republic Bank and Silvergate Capital, both considered to be in jeopardy of the same fate.

The silver lining, as has been the case with many of the state pension funds, is that Rhode Island's losses represent a very small fraction of the overall value of its portfolio, as a spokesperson for the state's Treasury Department explained.

Swedish fund loses $1B

The Mail further pointed out that while the losses sustained by state-level pension funds in America were – in the scheme of things – arguably minor, Sweden's largest provider of retirement benefits, Alecta, is poised to absorb more than $1 billion in losses as a result of the banks' failures.

Fortune noted that by the end of last year, Alecta had the fourth largest share holdings in SVB Financial and the sixth largest in Signature Bank.

Alecta CEO Magnus Billing said in the wake of the disaster, “Obviously with what's happened last week, we think it's a big failure for us as an investor, and we need to learn something from that and take actions based upon lessons learned.”

Fortunately, as Billing stated, the losses represent a small fraction of the system's holdings, and “[f]rom a customer point of view, this does not have a material impact at all.” However, his observation that there are lessons to be learned across the financial landscape in the wake of these collapses is a point many would be wise to heed.