As chairman emeritus of MFS Investment Management, Robert Pozen used his bully pulpit to argue for Social Security reform and the protection of Americans’ retirement assets. Since stepping down from that role, Pozen remains as a consultant to MFS while relying on his reputation in the retirement industry to champion auto-enrollment and criticize target-date funds.
“I’m for automatic enrollment because it gets people into a retirement program, but I’m not in favor of lifestyle funds,” says Pozen in an interview with Investment Advisor after getting tapped for the IA 25 for the second year in a row. “These funds do a lot of things that are problematic. Most people don’t understand them and think that they’re being effectively guaranteed not to lose money in the last 10 years of their life, which is clearly untrue.”
Indeed, many people credit the 65-year-old Harvard Business School senior lecturer and Brookings Institution senior research fellow with having become the successor to Vanguard founder John Bogle as the conscience of the industry.
Pozen takes the Bogle comparison as a “big compliment,” and then adds with his characteristically dry sense of humor, “I don’t know exactly what the conscience of the industry means, but if Jack Bogle is the conscience of the industry, then it’s a good thing. I do try to call them as I see them.”
There’s no question that how he sees them takes a bipartisan edge for this registered Democrat. Pozen, a member of former-President Bush’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security in 2001 and 2002, developed two models for closing the Social Security system’s long-term deficit, which Bush endorsed. The plan then was passed on to President Obama in a series of memos from the Progressive Policy Institute.
In 2003, Pozen served as secretary of economic affairs for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and helped the governor close the state’s $3 billion budget gap. He later talked to Democratic party insiders about challenging Republican Sen. Scott Brown for his Senate seat, according to the Boston Herald in December 2010, but Pozen says he’s not running for office. (One of his biggest projects at present is writing a book, “Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours,” which Pozen hopes will be a bestseller.)
But given his past relationship with the former governor of Massachusetts, Pozen would consider taking a position in a potential Romney administration.
“Of course, I would consider if any president asked me to do anything,” Pozen says. “But I’m a moderate Democrat, not a Republican. While in Massachusetts, Mitt viewed it as a positive to choose someone who was a moderate Democrat, but I’m not sure he would have the same view nationally. And given the strong feelings between the two parties, I’m not sure it’s so easy to be bipartisan in Washington.”
Today, says Pozen, the single most pressing issue for the United States “is the fact that the country has a budget cliff, and we will fall off at the end of this year if Congress does nothing.” Although the Bush tax cuts are set to expire and the United States could suffer a 3% reduction in GDP if lawmakers take no action, Congress has not responded to the supercommittee, Pozen warns.
“I’m all for disciplined fiscal policy, but we need that over time. We don’t need a fiscal shock,” he says. “It would be nice to think that Congress wouldn’t take $1 trillion out of the economy in 2013. I’m working with some people trying to come up with a bipartisan solution that would last beyond just a couple of months, but rather cut $4 trillion to $5 trillion over 10 years.”
Find out who was named on the 2012 IA 25 in Investment Advisor's May issue.
Check out more extended interviews of the 2012 IA 25 at AdvisorOne.
Read more about Bob Pozen from the 2011 IA 25.