David Villa, executive director and chief investment officer at SWIB

The primary investment fund for most Wisconsin public employees and retirees grew nearly 20% last year, bouncing back from a loss in 2018, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board reported Thursday.

Preliminary data shows the “core fund” grew 19.9% in 2019 after dropping 3.3% the year before. The five-year rate of return is 7.8%. The more volatile “variable fund” grew 28.6% last year and had a five-year rate of return of 9.8%. It had dropped 7.9% in 2018.

“We are proud of the strong performance in 2019 but we remain aware of the economic and geopolitical risks that create headwinds for future returns,” said David Villa, executive director and chief investment officer of the investment board.

The funds fuel pension payments for more than 635,000 current and former public employees, the University of Wisconsin System, school districts and most local governments. Their payments are leveled out over a five-year period to avoid large jumps in annuity payments or contribution rates.

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