It’s Time to Nominate the Top Asset Owners for the Allocators’ Choice Awards

This year’s awards will honor allocators in two new categories: ESG Investor of the Year and Rookie Fund of the Year.

Illustration by II

Illustration by II

The deadline for nominations has been extended to June 16. Submit your nominees here.

It hasn’t been an easy year for institutional investors. But for some asset owners, the economic turbulence presented an opportunity to flex their portfolio management, governance, and team-building strengths.

It’s those industry leaders who will be recognized at the Institutional Investor’s 6th Annual Allocators’ Choice Awards on September 12. But before the awards dinner, II needs your help to determine the finalists.

In addition to six returning awards, this year II is debuting two new categories that recognize the changing industry and investment environment: ESG Investor of the Year and Rookie Fund of the Year.

To nominate a candidate in these and other categories, use this form. The deadline to submit nominations is June 9. The nomination form is open to anyone, and all submissions will be kept confidential. Nominators are encouraged to include as much detail as possible, including supporting documents.


After receiving submissions from folks across the industry, the II editorial team will spend weeks vetting the nominees, using public documents, databases, and deep industry sourcing to come up with the best possible group of finalists.

Once the finalists are selected, qualified asset owners, including those who work for pensions, nonprofits, sovereign wealth funds, and similar institutions, will be invited to vote for the winners.

Asset owners interested in attending the Allocators’ Choice Awards in New York City can register on the event website.

The full list of categories, including criteria for nominees and past winners, is below:

Advocate of the Year: This award recognizes asset owners who are champions of their teams, funds, or the profession at large. Consider nominees who promote diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; take leading roles in industry groups; advocate on behalf of institutional investors to regulators and policymakers; or otherwise act in support of their teams, peers, and/or beneficiaries.

Past winners include David Erickson and David Holmgren, who were nominated for their mentorship of junior talent, and Elizabeth Burton, who was recognized for her public advocacy on behalf of her team. Nominees do not have to be CIOs — they just have to be making a mark on the industry.

ESG Investor of the Year: For the first time, Institutional Investor will honor an ESG Investor of the Year. This award is for investors who walk the talk. They have a defined set of ESG standards and implement them effectively within their portfolio.

All varieties of environmental, social, and governance investing will be considered, including impact, sustainable, and values-based investing. This can include anything from climate transition investments focused on risk management to mission-aligned investing at a religious institution or foundation. Although returns matter, nominees will be primarily judged based on their ability to meet predetermined ESG objectives. Creative implementation is a plus.

Innovator of the Year: The Innovator of the Year is a pioneer, a creative thinker, a problem solver. This person or fund has done something genuinely new and off-the-beaten path, whether that’s a unique approach to portfolio management, an unconventional organizational structure, or anything in between.

When thinking of nominees, consider how the fund sources investments, uses nascent technology, and works with outside organizations like managers and consultants. We’re looking for true originality, not just a larger implementation of something that’s been done before.

Recent winners include the Employees Retirement System of Texas’s Launchpad Program, which seeds emerging managers along with PAAMCO, and the Texas Municipal Retirement System, which was recognized for its innovative use of data in risk management.

Investment Committee/Board of the Year: A supportive investment committee or board can separate the good funds from the great ones. This award honors the committees and boards that use their positions to empower CIOs and their teams to make the best possible investment decisions. This could involve changing allocation targets or assumed rates of return, delegating investment authority to the CIO, or leveraging the board’s outside expertise to aid the fund.

The board/committee should not fall prey to politics, but instead put the success of the fund above all else. Famous names are not enough.

Recent winners include the board of the Indiana Public Retirement System, which lowered the pension fund’s return assumption after a year of strong performance, and Smith College’s investment committee, for its decision to insource investments after years of working with an OCIO.

Partnership of the Year: This award is all about teamwork. We’re looking for allocators working together, long-term strategic partnerships with managers or other providers, noteworthy joint ventures, or co-investments in which LPs are true partners.

Whoever the partners may be, they should be working together to achieve investment, governance, or talent-related goals. Nominees should be collaborative and aligned on their objectives, and the partnership itself should be mutually beneficial.

Past winners include the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative’s Aggregate Confusion Project, the Global Peer Financial Association, and Brown University’s seeding partnership with Owl Rock’s BDC.

Rookie Fund of the Year: Between M&A and insourcing, a multitude of new investment offices have popped up over the past few years. So for the first time, Institutional Investor is honoring the Rookie Fund of the Year. This is an investment office that is no more than five years old, which has successfully hired a strong CIO and has started building out a solid team and investment process.

The nominees can be new teams that have achieved remarkable success in a short time, or those that are off to a promising start. The winner can be a newly established fund or an existing fund that has hired a CIO for the first time.

Team of the Year: This award honors a talented group of individuals who work well together and utilize their combined strengths to drive positive investment outcomes. The Team of the Year has a chief investment officer who empowers staff, deputies who are poised to eventually lead an organization themselves, and a bench of strong talent who are ready to step up in the event of turnover.

Consider not just teams that have delivered investment outperformance, but also those that are adeptly navigating the changing workplace expectations ushered in by the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes hybrid or remote work; support for work/life balance; diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; and effective team building outside of the office.

Recent winners include the University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

CIO of the Year: This award honors an all-star chief investment officer who excels at every aspect of the job. The CIO of the Year should post outstanding performance and have a well-defined theory of portfolio management that fits the needs of the organization. Nominees should be effective leaders, generous mentors, and industry advocates who exemplify the profession’s standards. They should be excellent at selecting managers, developing talent, managing board expectations, and maintaining relationships with fellow allocators.

They do not have to run the biggest funds or have the most name recognition. What matters here is quality, not popularity.

Recent winners include Karl Scheer, CIO at the University of Cincinnati; James Davis, chief investment officer for OPSEU Pension Trust; and Kim Lew, then-CIO at Carnegie Corp.

Rising Stars: Every year, Institutional Investor honors a group of up-and-coming allocators who have what it takes to become a chief investment officer or asset class head one day.

Rising stars should be early-to-mid-career asset owners who are making outstanding contributions to their funds. They can work in investment or operations functions.

Several past Rising Stars have gone on to become chief investment officers, including Alisa Mall (2017), now CIO at MSD Capital, Elizabeth Tulach (2018), CIO at Boeing, Waymond Harris (2018), treasurer and senior vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan, and Carlos Rangel (2019), CIO at Kellogg.