CalPERS Portfolio Manager Joins Strive Asset Management, the Anti-Woke Firm Backed by Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman

Matt Cole will lead product and investments at the asset manager, which is going after “stakeholder capitalism” at BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street.

Sacramento, Calif. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Sacramento, Calif.

(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

An asset management firm that’s pushing back against ESG efforts has poached a longtime CalPERS investment manager to head up its products and investments team.

Strive Asset Management, which launched earlier this month, has hired Matt Cole, the firm confirmed to Institutional Investor. Cole most recently served as portfolio manager overseeing a roughly $40 billion U.S. treasury portfolio and a $30 billion structured securities portfolio at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, according to his LinkedIn profile.

According to a source familiar with the matter, Cole is a young “up-and-comer” in the investment industry. “Where you lose people like this, you cannot replace them,” the source said.

Cole began his career at CalPERS in 2006, working first as a real estate investments intern before working his way up through the ranks. He went from working in corporate credit research to serving as an investment officer, and then associate portfolio manager. He was promoted to investment manager in 2020.

Strive, founded by Vivek Ramaswamy and Anson Frericks, is looking to take on the “big three” asset management firms — BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street — which the firm says focus too much on “stakeholder capitalism” in violation of their fiduciary duty. The firm is backed by entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management.

Neither Ramaswamy nor Frericks has any experience working at a traditional asset management firm like the ones they criticize. Ramaswamy, who wrote “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” most recently was chief executive officer at biotech firm Roivant Sciences for eight years. Prior to that, he spent seven years at QVT Financial, a hedge fund-turned family office that invested in Roivant, according to its website.

Frericks, meanwhile, was most recently president of sales and distribution at Anheuser-Busch InBev, where he worked for ten years. Before joining the beverage company, he worked as a summer analyst at Citadel Investment Group and as an associate at private equity firm Summit Partners.

Despite their non-traditional backgrounds, the two said they have secured more than $20 million from Ackman, Thiel, Founders Fund, Narya Capital, Flex Capital, Palantir co-founder Jon Lonsdale, the Dorado Group chairman William Kappaz, and Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnik, among several others.

The firm is expected to launch its first product in the third quarter, according to its May launch announcement.

A spokesperson for CalPERS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.