Hawaii’s Pension Fund Names Its Next CIO

New Mexico PERA alum Kristin Varela has been tapped for the role left vacant by Elizabeth Burton.

Kristin Varela (Courtesy photo)

Kristin Varela

(Courtesy photo)

The $21 billion Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Hawaii has selected a new chief investment officer after a months-long search.

Kristin Varela, the former interim CIO and deputy CIO for the New Mexico Public Employees’ Retirement System, has been chosen to replace Elizabeth Burton, who departed in June for Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Howard Hodel, who had been serving as acting CIO, will retire in 2023.

“It’s an honor and an enormous privilege to be appointed to this position,” Varela said in a statement. “I am excited to join such a prestigious team and look forward to serving the hard-working employees of Hawaii.”

Varela will start her new post on January 17.

She had worked at New Mexico PERA for eight years, starting as an investing accountant on the risk team. From there she worked her way up, serving as a senior portfolio manager and deputy CIO before taking on the role of interim CIO when Dominic Garcia left the organization in June 2021. In August 2022, PERA named Michael Shackelford as his official replacement.

Prior to her role at PERA, Varela worked as an analyst at Santa Fe Wealth Advisors.

“Public funds always benefit from hiring the best talent available,” ERS executive director Thomas Williams said in a statement. “While a specific fund’s staffing needs may evolve over time, a constant is outstanding intellect, character, commitment, competence, and vision. Kristin checks all these boxes and more.”

Varela was selected from a pool of more than 200 candidates. Kumabe HR ran the search.