Question: What do you get when you cross the chief investment officer of a $120 billion public pension fund with the CIO of a $380 million college endowment, or when you mix the investment chief for three county retirement systems with total assets of $6 billion together with the CFO of a $420 million spend-down foundation?

Answer: The Institutional Investor Roundtable, an annual event at which award-winning investors from across the financial industry share ideas, affinities and differences in a forthright discussion and collegial atmosphere.

The group of mission-based investors who gathered on the morning of May 17 at the Union League Club in New  York was notable in both its diversity and its commitment. The lively conversation ranged from the vagaries of manager selection to the onerous nature of peer group comparisons.

George Moss began investing for the LSU Foundation while still in business school at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The foundation is a private entity legally separated from the school and required to be self-sufficient. "Our biggest challenge is our return target," says Moss, who teaches a course on derivatives at his alma mater. At Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, CIO Kathryn Crecelius manages close to $5 billion in assets, including the $3.4 billion endowment, pension and operating funds. Compliance issues are one of her biggest headaches.

"We have to report to the Fed and the IRS on offshore accounts," she explains. "We're now grappling with the implications of Dodd-Frank, even though I don't believe that legislation originally contemplated touching endowments and foundations."