Related to this, though, is the importance of scale. In a panel session, Keith Ambachtsheer, the director of the Rotman Centre for Pension Management at the University of Toronto, thinks the US$6 billion Michigan Municipal Employees Retirement System, for instance, was “too small” to be “effective”. He is asked to critically evaluate the three public funds on the panel, the others being the $1.4 trillion Japanese fund and the $15 billion Government Pension Fund of Thailand. For those other two funds, Ambachtsheer focused on their asset allocation – mainly bonds – and governance practices. Jeb Burns, the Michigan fund’s chief investment officer, admits that he could not do some of the things he would like to do, particularly with staffing, because of the fund’s size. But there were smaller funds than his within the state system and this was an issue for the politicians. Ambachtsheer asks and answers his own question: ‘How did a state end up with so many different pension systems? The answer is: ‘this is America’.”

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