Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of the
California State Teachers Retirement System, will be
honored with Institutional Investors Lifetime Achievement
Award at the first annual Allocators Choice Awards on November
28 in New York.
Ailman, who first joined the $213 billion public pension
fund as CIO in the fall of 2000, has more than three decades of
experience in investment management, having served in the
public sector since 1985. He spent 11 years in Sacramento
County, where he managed investments for both the county and
employees retirement systems, before moving to the
Washington State Investment Board, where he served four years
as CIO of the then-$57 billion fund.
During his 17 years at CalSTRS, Ailman has grown the
portfolio from $116 billion to more than $200 billion, making
it the countrys second largest public pension, while more
than quintupling the funds staff to 150 employees in
order to manage roughly half of its assets internally.
When I got here, I told the staff my vision was to
make us a world class money manager, Ailman said.
We were a pretty quiet, mom-and-pop kind of shop. I
wanted to grow the internal management and really put us on the
map as an institutional investor.
By many measures, Ailman has succeeded: The quiet,
sleepy fund just starting to consider high-yield bonds is
now a well-diversified, sophisticated investor with a strategic
asset allocation targeting sizeable investments in private
assets and what the fund dubs risk-mitigating
strategies. Ailman and his team at CalSTRS have been the
recipients of numerous accolades over the years, including the
peer-voted Richard Stoddard Award for service in the investment
of public pensions, which Ailman won in 2003. That coming
from your peers really means a lot, he said.
Under Ailmans leadership, CalSTRS has also become a
force to be reckoned with in shareholder activism, leading the
charge on environmental, social, and governance issues
including climate change and shareholder voting rights. Over
the last year, CalSTRS has become a prominent proponent of
gender diversity, seeding State Streets new SHE Index and
launching Beyond Talk, a workshop to advance women in financial
CalSTRS certainly walks the walk: Ailman estimated that his
team is split almost evenly between men and women, with a
senior staff thats roughly two-thirds female.
Additionally, around 40 percent of staff members are people of
color. Probably the biggest thing that Im proud of
is our staff, Ailman said. It is really diverse,
and really different from the rest of the industry.
Working in the public sector has come with its challenges
Ailman acknowledged that working at a state pension plan
has often meant discarding innovative investment ideas that
simply couldnt work within their governance structure.
Yet Ailman is not tempted to stray to the typically more
lucrative private sector, explaining that he decided a long
time ago what he stood for as a person.
Im a Christian, a Husband, a Father, and then a
chief investment officer, he said. I try to make my
life decisions in that order.
And Ailman has no plans to hang up his CIO cap anytime soon.
One of his top goals going forward is to continue to integrate
ESG risk analysis into CalSTRS investment process, while
driving home the importance of ESG as a long-term investing
issue to the broader institutional community.
Were a big fund, were looking for big
waves we can ride for a long time, he said. The
change in climate is a huge wave, one that will probably last
50 years or longer. It is both a risk and an
Ailman also looks forward to further growing the CalSTRS
investment staff, focusing on leadership development
programming for the younger investors who Ailman and his senior
colleagues will eventually pass the baton to.
We have a very strong culture with the investment
staff, one that we want to maintain, he said. We
need to do a good job of succession planning to sustain our
performance for the future.
The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented at
dinner at the Mandarin Oriental in New York City, following an
afternoon Masterclass of discussion among an exclusive group of
asset allocators and managers, where attendees will share,
debate, and tackle institutional investings intractable
Other awards to be presented at the
Allocators Choice Awards will include Turnaround of
the Year, Investment Committee/Board of the
Year, and Partnership of the Year, for which
CalSTRS is also nominated for its partnership with State
Winners will be chosen by peer voting, which is
currently underway. Allocators can request an invitation to the Masterclass