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Andrew Russell, Dennis Johnson: NYSSA Ben Graham Annual Conference In-Depth Notes

Detailed notes of Andrew Russell, Director of Fixed Income, Pension Board United Church of Christ and Dennis A Johnson, CFA, Managing Director & Chief Investment Officer, TIAA-CREF Trust Company from the NYSSA Ben Graham annual conference which took place on Wednesday June 27th 2018 in New York stay tuned for much more. Right now we have about 30 pages of notes from the full day conference featuring Rich Pzena, Murray Stahl,Thomas A. Russo, Jason KarpChristopher C. Davis, Jim Grant and many others.

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Andrew Russell Dennis Johnson NYSSA Ben Graham Annual Conference
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[00:00:00] Male 1: ...to having a goal in investing in order for retirement or filling property networks or any kind of number of uses for retirement or savings. I’d like to introduce our two panelists first Andrew Russell who’s the director of fixed of fixed income at the pension board of Uniting Church of Christ. You guys can read bios on the app and I got one thing out of the bio that I thought was really interesting for Alistair Bax. He is on the board of managers for an ARMY [inaudible 00:00:36] tavern museum which warms my historical heart. He mentions preserve and interpreted history of the American revolution was also pretty cool.

To his right is Dennis Johnson the chief investment officer of TIA in town for [inaudible 00:00:48] services. As both the CIO for TIA and trust. The thing that I pulled out of your bio that I thought was going to be interesting is that you were senior portfolio manager at Caplers for global equity which working in investment kudos.

One of the things that most of the conference has been talking about the how of investing. I think many of the conferences today are talking about the how of investing, people and processes. Just as important is the who and the why and I think the [inaudible 00:01:19] really give it that nexus of how and also who, who are we investing for and why we are doing what we’re doing.

So to that end I want this discussion to really focus on both the organisations themselves and then also lead into some of the other things that we talked about today. So to that end I’m going to start with Andrew with an introduction of your organisation, who are you members, beneficiaries and board members and how do you define value particularly from a fixed income perspective?

[00:01:52] Andrew Russell: Thanks for your time and for having me today. My name is Andrew I’m the director of fixed income on the pension board of the Church of Christ. I’ve been there for 15 years, in fact I was recently awarded a plaque and cheque in celebration of my time to the UCC. The Church of Christ is a protestant denomination and in our denomination we are not nearly as big as methodists or presbyterians.

The church itself is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Pension division we are in Colombia University across the street from what was formerly [inaudible 00:02:32]. The UCC has 5000 member churches nationwide, we are predominantly in New England and middle western states and we have exposure across the country.

Originally the UCC was founded from the roots of puritan, puritan is a member of the [inaudible 00:02:58]. More recently there’s been a [inaudible 00:03:01] regarding social issues. The board and the pension [inaudible 00:03:10] and the folks come from a variety of backgrounds to do the churches bidding. The investment committee is derived from that and most of those folks come from the investment community save for one or two. We do have members who are now more focused stable investing and in ESG.

In terms of when we look at value I can say with fixed income I think most of the talk here today has been focused away from fixed income but this is the Ben Graham conference. Our view on fixed income has to do with how securities are coming through and security value. So while our approach is not labelled valeu I think within our own management of fixed income as well as most other fixed income managers who are managing actively they do take a value approach. In the basis most conversations are about fixed income securities and it comes down to is the price cheap or should we look at something else?

[00:04:28] Male 1: Thank you and Dennis you talked about your organization the members who share your opinion of how you see value added.

[00:04:35] Dennis Johnson: Absolutely my name is Dennis Johnson and I’m with TIAA. I would like to describe the TIA following way we have three lines of business and four pools of capital. One line of business is our retail business, I serve as the chief investment officer for that business. Our customers if you will are many participants that we serve through our institutional business for which I also serve as chief investment officer.

Think of an employee of a non profit organisation, that non profit organisation will be providing a retirement benefit to that employee and we manage that through our institutional business. That employee also has retirement assets or non related non retirement assets outside of those benefits provided by their employer. Those would be the personal accounts that we manage through our retail business, 401k plans and the like.

In our institutional business we manage not only the retirement plans for non profits but we also manage endowments for non profit organizations and for foundations. As I indicated I serve as the chief investment officer for that business as well. The third line of business we have in TIAA is [inaudible 00:05:55] which is our asset management business we acquired that company in 2014. The customers that are served by [inaudible 00:06:02] are predominantly retail clients for channels outside of TIAA. They also provide institutional money management and services in cases like the public pension funds.

Read the full notes here.