Salisbury Stepping Down as CEO of EBRI

Dallas Salisbury will leave EBRI after 37 years as CEO of the nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) opened for business on December 4, 1978. Its president and chief executive, Dallas Salisbury, became the face of the world of workplace retirement.

Salisbury, who before coming to EBRI held positions with the Washington State Legislature, the Department of Justice, the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the Department of Labor, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), was expert at helping the media and regulators understand the nuances of the American retirement system: both the importance and the fragility of the framework that supports how individuals retire. In concert with a wealth of data that EBRI accumulates from more than 35,000 plans, he provided invaluable insights about trends in defined contribution and defined benefit plans.

A keen forecaster of market forces that affect benefits, Salisbury predicted in 2003 a rapid decline in retiree medical benefits and a rise in lump-sum payouts. Financial literacy, he said, would continue to be a real problem for American investors.

While intensely passionate about retirement savings and security, Salisbury never allowed personal passion to interfere with data-driven facts about the country’s retirement system. He pointed out weaknesses in the defined benefit (DB) system of the private sector, for example, stemming from the American worker’s tendency to leave an employer before accumulating sufficient service credits. 

His assignments have included Social Security Administration appointee to the Outside Scholar Panels for the SSA’s Financial Literacy Research Consortium, the SEC Investor Advisory Committee, the Board of Advisors to the Comptroller General of the United States, and the Board of Directors of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the Board of Directors of National Academy of Human Resources and the NAHR Foundation, the Secretary of Labor’s ERISA Advisory Council, the presidentially appointed PBGC Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors of the Society for Human Resources Management, the U.S. Advisory Panel on Medicare Education, the Board of Directors of the National Academy of Social Insurance, member of the Bipartisan Policy Center Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings, and numerous other commissions and advisory groups.

Salisbury will become president emeritus and resident fellow on January 1.

NEXT: Harry Conaway will head EBRI in January.

EBRI has named Harry Conaway, a senior partner with Mercer, new CEO. His appointment becomes effective January 1.

Conaway’s appointment represents EBRI’s commitment to its unique role as a “fact tank” for the public and decisionmakers, the organization said in a statement. Conaway has served on the EBRI Board of Trustees for more than a decade, as well as on the EBRI executive committee. Conaway has been with Mercer since 1989.

Around the time of the 40th anniversary of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Conaway stated that the federal framework for retirement benefits was one of the law’s positive aspects.

“With Mercer, Conaway has built and managed a large, highly regarded, and financially successful human resources and employee benefits legislative and regulatory interpretation, research and communications group and will hit the ground running,” Pamela French, EBRI board chair, said in a statement.

Conaway cited the research institute’s reputation, databases and research team. “EBRI has the capacity to shatter myths and preconceptions,” he said. “As the new CEO, I'm proud that I will have the opportunity to listen to and work with EBRI’s members and partners in the benefits community, and to lead the nation’s premier employee benefits research organization.”