J. David Davenport, the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the International Foundation for Retirement Education (InFRE) died on December 2, 2015 at the Oklahoma City Heart Hospital. He was passionate about helping American workers improve their retirement readiness.
Davenport’s name in the retirement savings industry is synonymous with Thomas Edison in the world of invention. While Edison is credited with the creation of the light bulb, phonograph, and film projector, so also Davenport wrote the first legislation to secure retirement benefits for city, county and state employees, created new and innovative investment savings products used today by virtually all large investment management firms, and launched one of the first financial savings programs distributed through banks.
How people in the United States plan for a secure retirement remains one of the most important issues and highest priorities in our society today. As a result of scientific and medical discoveries, people are living longer than ever before, and there is uncertainty and concern about adequate funding for Social Security and many retirement plans. As chairman and managing partner of Davenport Financial Group in Oklahoma City, Davenport was the epitome of an industry innovator and entrepreneur whose vision, creativity, and passion have helped millions of people throughout our nation successfully address this critical issue and establish a better position to enjoy a secure retirement.
Over the past 40 years, Davenport conceived, developed, and successfully implemented three separate national financial service business initiatives that became the standard for new business trends, product concepts, and marketing strategies within the nation’s financial services marketplace. By doing so, he helped over an estimated 150 million people throughout the country enjoy the latter years of their lives in retirement.
Davenport’s first venture was the creation of Public Employees Benefit Services Corporation (PEBSCO), which was started in Oklahoma City in 1972, and from which his business partner, Bud Wilkinson, became Chairman. It became the nation’s first company to develop and secure IRS approval to allow state, city, and county governments to provide employees with voluntary tax-advantaged deferred compensation programs. As a result, individual employee’s deferred savings can be invested and accumulated tax-free until retirement. In 1978 Davenport led the effort to enact federal legislation for government employees known as Section 457, which laid the groundwork for 40l (k) plans with the same type benefits for private sector employees throughout the country. In addition, through Davenport’s leadership, the State of Oklahoma was one of the first states to initiate this kind of program for its employees.
PEBSCO eventually set up similar programs for 12 states and two national associations – the U. S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties – that offered these same benefits to their 2.5 million city and county employees in over 6,000 plans throughout the country. Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County are examples of jurisdictions that provide this voluntary benefit to its employees to help them prepare for retirement. PEBSCO became the largest Sec. 457 administrator in the U.S. and was purchased by Nationwide Insurance of Columbus, Ohio, in 1982. Davenport remained as Chairman until 1987.
In a second venture in 1976, Davenport designed a new financial product – an annuity that for the first time included independent families of mutual funds for distribution through the Wall Street brokerage marketplace. Unlike PEBSCO, this new product provided new and innovative deferred investments for the individual investor, separate and different from an employer-sponsored plan. Today this product is used by virtually every mutual fund company, investment management firm, and life insurance company that offers individual tax deferred financial products.
A third Davenport venture was the development of Landmark Financial Service Corporation which launched one of the first national marketing companies for distribution of mutual funds and annuities in the bank marketplace throughout the country. This Oklahoma City firm based its business model on Davenport’s belief that many consumers prefer to transact all personal financial transactions through a local bank. The company was later sold to Nationwide.
Davenport was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1987, as a founding member of the five person Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board and served until 1994. The board provides fiduciary oversight for the nation’s largest defined contribution supplemental retirement program serving 4.7 million federal employees.1 As of the end of 2014, the Investment Company Institute estimates 457 plans and the Federal Thrift Plan held a combined $700 billion in assets.2
Davenport has been chairman of Quail Creek National Bank in Oklahoma City since 1983. Through his leadership the bank has ranked in the top 1% of all 8,100 community banks in the nation according to the American Bankers Association Journal.
Davenport has endowed several scholarships for students who are interested in pursuing careers in governmental or financial services. He has also contributed to many charitable organizations.
He was preceded in death by his three daughters: Alexis Lee (42), Lisa Alane (49) and Patricia Lee (38). He is survived by his wife of over 60 years, Pat; his son, David Mark Davenport; and four granddaughters.
1The Federal Thrift Savings Plan: Can It Be Duplicated? Investment Company Institute, September, 2015
2The Investment Company Institute 2015 Fact Book