TIAA President and CEO Roger Ferguson Visits School of Business

In a fireside chat with Dean Nilanjan Sen open to the community, “Investing in a New Era,” and at a question and answer session with students, TIAA president and CEO Roger Ferguson fielded questions about a variety of topics including coping with market volatility, the looming retirement crisis in western countries, possible privatization of Social Security, student debt challenges, TIAA’s approach to maintaining data privacy, and Amazon’s recent decision to cancel planned investments in New York City.

Ferguson indicated that the current economic conditions are a challenge, not a crisis and that the ups and downs of the day-to-day financial markets are noise. He said, “Don’t give in to irrationality. Resist the urge. Historically it evens out. Volatility is part of the market.” He also noted that the U.S. remains the largest, most balanced economy, we are unlikely to go into a recession in the next year or two and that the federal budget deficit shows no indication of deceasing anytime soon.

Dean Sen said, “It was indeed an excellent opportunity for the School and for our students to hear Dr. Ferguson's views on various topics, including current trends, new technologies in fund management and challenges in retirement planning."

Assistant Professor of Finance Aaron Brauner who attended the event, said, “The idea that investing over the next 30 years won’t be as profitable as over the prior 30 is a fact that makes investing for retirement more difficult. It also compounds the issues with Social Security that Dr. Ferguson mentioned.”

Ferguson offered advice to the many students in attendance. He told them, “Despite student debt, get your schooling done now, human nature makes it less likely that you will return to graduate school.” His educational path took him to a Ph.D. in economics and a J.D. He took his first job just prior to his 30th birthday. Ferguson said, “Consider careers beyond Wall Street. Don’t get trapped following a path. Differentiate yourself,” noting that a career is more like a rock climbing wall than a ladder, “You move laterally, step back and find another path as necessary. A business set-back is not the end of life, it’s just a business issue.”

He recommended that students sign up for a defined contribution plan when they begin work, noting that only half of Americans are enrolled. He also suggested that those who like to play the market have two separate pots of funds, including professionally managed “safe money” that allows for more risk on other investments.

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. is president and chief executive officer of TIAA, the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical, and cultural fields and a Fortune 100 financial services organization. Ferguson is the former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System. Prior to joining TIAA in April 2008, he was head of financial services for Swiss Re, Chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corporation, and a member of the company’s executive committee. Ferguson holds a B.A., J.D., and a Ph.D. in economics, all from Harvard University.

For further coverage of the event, see the Times Union story.