Third-Party Focus for TIAA-CREF’s New Asset Management Head Leary

One of Robert Leary’s main jobs as TIAA-CREF’s head of asset management will be to oversee the continued expansion of the firm’s third-party services arm.


A man enters the building housing the headquarters of TIAA-CREF in New York on Friday, December 19, 2003. Chief Executive Officer Herbert Allison is imposing on the 85-year-old not-for-profit organization a management style he honed on Wall Street. Photographer: Diane Bondareff/Bloomberg News


Former ING U.S. president Robert Leary will soon step in as the head of asset management at $520 billion TIAA-CREF, the New York–based retirement fund and financial services firm, where his duties will include overseeing the continued expansion of the firm’s third-party services arm.

Leary will take over on June 24 from asset management COO Carol Deckbar, who has served as interim head asset manager at TIAA-CREF since early 2012, when Scott Evans resigned from the post after 27 years with the firm.

Leary and his team will oversee a portfolio of about $505 billion, directing all aspects of asset management. One central project Leary will take on is the expansion of TIAA-CREF’s third-party business, through which the firm offers management and other financial services to institutional and retail investors.

The firm began offering third-party services in 2004 by working directly with other institutional investors, and later began offering its mutual funds to financial intermediaries such as investment advisors, institutions, banks and trust companies. In early 2011 the scheme became a farmland investment manager when it launched the $2 billion TIAA-CREF Global Agriculture company, which invests in farmland with other institutional investors. (The firm had taken a controlling stake in Champaign, Illinois–based agricultural asset manager Westchester Group in 2010.) In February TIAA-CREF announced a venture with Norges Bank Investment Management, manager of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, to invest in U.S. office properties.

A spokesperson for TIAA-CREF confirmed that Leary will be expected to continue the development and growth of these third-party activities.


Leary joined ING in 2007 as CEO of ING Investment Management’s Americas division, overseeing the firm’s $230 billion U.S., Latin American and Canadian investment management businesses. In 2011, he became president and COO of ING’s U.S. unit, where he helmed the company’s management, retirement, insurance and annuity businesses. Before ING Leary was an executive vice president at AIG, and during that time he assisted in building investment products for institutional investors. He also served as a vice president specializing in fixed income at J.P. Morgan & Co., and, before that, he was an attorney with White & Case.

The portfolio Leary will oversee currently has about $240 billion in fixed-income investments, $214 billion in equities, $33 billion in real estate and about $18 billion in alternative assets, a bucket that includes agriculture, energy and private-equity, a spokesperson says.

One of TIAA-CREF’s largest variable annuity accounts, the $115 billion CREF Stock Account, has returned an annualized 8.26 percent over the past decade. The CREF Composite Benchmark yielded 8.56 percent during that period (as of April 30).