By Randy Myers
What is the current crediting rate for pooled stable value funds? What was the name of the first synthetic GIC? Which firm pioneered active management of stable value portfolios?
Even the trivia wizards on the popular TV quiz show Jeopardy! would have a hard time with questions like these, but they were fair game for a trio of intrepid stable value experts participating in the first ever “Stable Value Jeopardy!” match during the 2021 SVIA Spring Seminar.
Conducted in traditional Jeopardy! style, the game featured contestants Maya Pillai, director of stable value products at Pacific Life; Luke Robustelli, sales director for stable value markets at MetLife; and Mike Leonberger, stable value portfolio manager at Invesco. David Berg, senior vice president for DC solutions, stable value, at PIMCO, posed answers to which the contestants then needed to provide the questions. In the category “Highly Rated” for $200, for example, it was Leonberger who correctly stated the question “What is the crediting rate for stable value pooled funds?” after Berg posed the answer: 2.05%. (For the record, the first synthetic GIC was known by the acronym BASIC, and PIMCO pioneered active management of stable value portfolios.)
Berg tested the contestants knowledge of stable value trivia 28 times during the regular portion of the game, with the contestants providing the correct “question” to his answer 19 times, for a winning average of 68%. In addition to “Highly Rated,” categories included “Dollars and Cents,” “Stable Value All Stars,” “Growing the Pie,” “Retirement Industry Statistics,” and “Stable Value Firsts.”
“Stable Value Firsts” proved most problematic for the contestants, accounting for four of the nine incorrect responses. Contestants incorrectly identified, or failed to guess at, the first year covered by the SVIA’s annual Investment Policy Survey (1996), the clarification of the accounting standard that required defined contribution plans to report synthetic GICs at fair value beginning in 2006 (FASB Staff Position AAG INV-1 and SOP 94-4-1), the first year of the SVIA’s quarterly survey (2008), and the year the SVIA was established (1990).
On the other hand, the contestants dug deep to correctly identify other bits of trivia. Leonberger knew, for example, that the first synthetic GIC, launched by Banker’s Trust, in 1990, was called BASIC. (The name was an acronym for Benefits Accessible Securities Investment Contract.) Robustelli knew that “$94 billion” was the amount by which stable value assets grew in 2020, and Pillai identified “2.36%” as the average crediting rate for separate accounts.
Leonberger raced to an early lead by providing the first three correct answers, but by the end of regular Jeopardy! Robustelli was in the lead with $4,800 in winnings, followed by Berg with $4,100 and Pillai with $600.
To conclude the game, Berg posed the Final Jeopardy! answer: “This legislation is gaining attention as a way for 403(b) plans to invest more broadly in CITs (collective investment trusts).” Robustelli wagered $4,001 of his winnings, Leonberger $4,000, and Pillai $0. Only Robustelli correctly identified the matching question (What is the SECURE Act 2.0?). Leonberger and Pillai only narrowly missed by identifying the original SECURE Act, which was signed into law in December 2019.
Perhaps the most disappointing outcome? Unlike real Jeopardy!, Stable Value Jeopardy!’s winnings were as virtual as the game show itself. Robustelli took home the crown—and the esteem of his SVIA colleagues—but no cash.