For Individuals,For Plan Sponsors,Custom

MissionSquare Research Institute Names Zhikun Liu as Vice President, Head of Retirement Research

January 24, 2024

MissionSquare Research Institute, a leading nonprofit and nonpartisan organization specializing in public sector workforce research, announces the appointment of Dr. Zhikun “Dennis” Liu as Vice President, Head of Retirement Research. Dr. Liu, an accomplished professional with a robust background in the financial industry, strong academic credentials, and a wealth of published research, will assume his role on February 5, 2024.

Deanna J. Santana, Acting Chief Executive Officer and President of MissionSquare Retirement, enthusiastically shared the following about Dr. Liu’s appointment. “I am inspired to have such a highly qualified industry leader at the helm of MissionSquare Research Institute. As public sector leaders grapple with a broad range of workforce challenges, ranging from recruitment to retirement, Dr. Liu's extensive financial industry and academic experience positions him as the right leader at the right time. Under his guidance, the Institute will continue its mission of delivering high-quality research that informs decision-making to support the public service workforce.”

Dr. Liu, acknowledging his new role, emphasizes the significance of supporting public service employees who are essential to the well-being of America’s communities. “It is my honor to lead MissionSquare Research Institute,” says Dr. Liu. “The Institute plays a fundamental role in providing actionable research that policymakers and stakeholders need to strengthen our public workforce. I look forward to continuing the legacy of impactful research, working alongside a team of accomplished researchers, collaborative partners, and engaged policymakers.”

Before joining MissionSquare Research Institute, Dr. Liu held key roles at the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Empower Retirement, where he contributed to the advancement of methodologies in financial wellness and retirement readiness. Notably, he developed and established various financial planning models and engines, such as the Ballpark E$timate® financial engine, My Total Wealth® model, and the Financial Wellness Scoring System. With a track record of publishing academic and industry research papers, Dr. Liu has presented extensively at conferences, and his work is regularly cited in the news media. Dr. Liu served as an academic at Texas Tech University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Texas, teaching a diverse range of courses, including economics, personal finance, and mathematics. He is also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.

MissionSquare Research Institute promotes excellence in state and local government and other public service organizations to attract and retain talented employees. The organization identifies leading practices and conducts research on retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, labor force development, and topics facing the not-for-profit industry and education sector. MissionSquare Research Institute brings together leaders and respected researchers. More information and access to research and publications are available at

MissionSquare Retirement is dedicated to guiding those who serve our communities toward a secure and confident financial future. Founded in 1972, MissionSquare Retirement is a financial services company with $74.2 billion assets under management and administration.* The company has helped more than three million people working in public service retire confidently and is focused on delivering retirement plans, investment options, and personalized guidance to the public service sector. For more information, visit or follow the company on Facebook, LinkedIn, and X.

*As of December 31, 2023. Includes 457, 401, 403(b), Retirement Health Savings (RHS) plans, Employer Investment Program (EIP) plans, affiliated IRAs, and investment-only assets.

Return to top