“If you were going to look for what’s the possible real crack in the financial architecture for the next crisis, rather than looking in the rearview mirror, pension funds would be on our list,” Hunt said Friday in an interview. Pressure on municipalities and states will intensify in a downturn when local tax revenues decline and unemployment worsens, he said. “So we’re worried about those pension obligations.”
Lawmakers from New Jersey to Illinois to California are struggling to fill shortfalls. U.S. public pensions had 71.8% of assets required to meet obligations to retirees as of the fiscal year ended June 2016, according to a report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
PGIM, owned by Newark, New Jersey-based Prudential Financial Inc., counts 147 of the 300 largest global pension funds among its clients. Hunt said that corporate funds generally do a better job than their public counterparts.
Hunt acknowledged that it’s harder in the public pension space where lawmakers set the benefits and the fund managers are tasked with generating enough return to cover those promises. Still, he said he has advised public-pension clients to stop looking for the highest-return hedge fund and “start doing what the corporate folks have long been doing, which is to find ways to minimize the deficit and to take risk gradually off the table.”
Hunt joined Prudential in 2011 from McKinsey & Co. He’s doubled assets under management, renamed the business PGIM and bought a Deutsche Bank AG unit to expand in India.