The State Worker

CalPERS sets knowledge standards for board members

CalPERS’ governing board aims to up its collective understanding of everything from financial statements to financial markets with a new set of “core competencies” that will help shape education and training.

The policy, which the board is imposing on itself, also requires board members to have familiarity with topics ranging from health care and pension plans to board governance and communication.

"The issues and topics we address are some of the most diverse and complex of any entity - public or private - in the country," Rob Feckner, president of CalPERS’ 13-member board, said in a press statement. "These criteria are designed to enhance the competency of the Board and will help us better serve our members and employers."

The board is comprised of elected, appointed and ex officio members such as the state treasurer and the state controller, who often send surrogates to meetings. That constitutionally-mandated composition occasionally becomes a target of critics who have said, among other shortcomings, that the board is ill-equipped to thoughtfully process policies that impact some 1.6 million members and assets that currently stand at $276 billion.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested shaking up the board’s composition to eliminate some board positions and add others, including a seat for the governor’s finance director, an independent health insurance expert, and a representative of a contracting agency. Brown said the changes would increase the board’s breadth of knowledge. He later dropped the idea.