II’s Most Wanted Allocators: First Team

The 2019 wish list of not-yet CIOs, according to the industry’s top recruiters.

Illustration by Pete Ryan

Illustration by Pete Ryan

Who are the allocators most coveted for chief investment officer roles? For the second time, Institutional Investor attempts to answer this question.

How? By asking the very gatekeepers — executive recruiters — who hold so much power over the career paths of would-be CIOs.

As judged on the below formula, the 25 individuals who make up the First Team have the skill sets and experience valued by recruiters and boards. II is grateful to the many professionals who contributed their time and insight to this project, including — but not limited to — the Prince Houston Group’s co-founders Marylin Prince and James Houston; Russell Reynolds Associates’ Debra Brown, Meredith Coburn, and Christina Proctor; Korn Ferry senior client partner Michael Kennedy; and the staff at Wilshire Associates. Many others preferred to remain anonymous.

Comments, complaints, candidates for next year? Let us know.

Portfolio Management: 40%

  • Investment track record: 15%
  • Exposure to complex investments and asset classes: 15%
  • Manager relations and access: 10%

Non-Portfolio Management: 60%

  • Management and leadership skills: 20%
  • Communication, interpersonal skills, and board interaction experience: 20%
  • Pedigree, including employer reputation, education, and training: 20%

A more detailed explanation of this year’s new methodology can be found here. See the Second Team (No. 26 through No. 50) here.


Rich Hall

Total score: 72/100

Having “done his time” at the messy Harvard Management Co., Hall returned to Texas and UTIMCO in early 2018 to reunite with former boss Britt Harris. That Harris, newly implanted at UTIMCO after a successful career at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, would so quickly get Hall back “speaks volumes — it’s basically all you need to know.” Look for Hall to either “succeed Harris, when the time is right, or be lured away to run his own nonprofit portfolio.”


John Barker

Total score: 70/100

Insiders say there are two strong deputies on Robert Manilla’s team: Donna Snider is one, Barker the other. Although still “a bit young,” Barker is “very polished” and “pretty seasoned.” After graduating from Notre Dame, Barker was hired by the university’s CIO, Scott Malpass, and stayed at the endowment for nearly five years. Recruiters think he’s now “sitting it out” at Kresge in hopes of succeeding Manilla.


Tanya Carmichael

Total Score: 83/100

“Incredibly strong leadership skills,” one recruiter raves. Carmichael leads about 15 investment professionals based in Hong Kong, London, and the Toronto mothership, all searching primarily for direct and co-investments with “a private equity focus.” Beyond Ontario Teachers’ — by some measures the world’s best-performing pension fund — “she’s engaged with the investor community and chairs ILPA,” the Institutional Limited Partners Association.


Vince Tuohey

Total Score: 84/100

“High-powered intellectually and part of the most sought-after team in the space,” says one recruiter. Tuohey’s perfect pedigree score reflects his almost absurd qualifications: “Harvard undergrad, ROTC, went into the military and was super successful, ran 150 troops in Iraq, came back, went to Harvard Business School, then worked in venture capital and private equity for a short time. Everyone is a generalist at MIT . With Vince, you just have the leadership skills.” MIT chief Seth Alexander tries to keep his team under wraps — hence their vague job titles and Tuohey’s debut at No. 1 on the Most Wanted Allocators list. But word gets out. One hedge fund manager, when asked if Tuohey deserved the top spot, simply answered: “Yes.”


Ed Cass

Total Score: 80/100

Cass “could be the CEO of any fund in the world, let alone the CIO,” one industry insider says. “Not that it looks like he’s having any fun. He’s a bit like Eeyore, a contrarian.” Cass took over the real assets arm to fill a need for solid leadership, adding yet another CPPIB division to the list of groups he’s run. The question about Cass is not whether he’s wanted as a CIO — he is — but rather if he wants to be one.


Stefan Dunatov

Total score: 75/100

Dunatov is new to this ranking, but not to the CIO world. Before taking “the No. 2 job at BCI” in 2017, he led the U.K. coal industry and mineworker pension funds. Dunatov was deeply involved in the U.K. investor community during his five years as CIO of Coal Pension Trustees Services, building a reputation for “telling it like it is” and “shining in front of a board.” He chaired the “iconoclastic” 300 Club and has served on the “giant” Wellcome Trust’s investment committee. “I imagine he could soon be back in a No. 1 position at an even larger fund.”


Kelsey Morgan

Total score: 77/100

The market is “just waiting” for Morgan to be a CIO, and he’d be a “very good pick.” He is “a little bit on the young side,” but “pretty polished — a double degree from Dartmouth helps,” as does a two-year stint at Michael Bloomberg’s family office. But as one recruiter warns, “it’s much harder to get the CIO role after you’ve been passed over,” which Morgan reportedly was when Alice Ruth took over from Pamela Peedin in 2017. “A little pause for thought there — but just a little.”


Jack Edmondson

Total Score: 81/100

Although Oxford’s endowment is “quite small” at £3.5 billion ($4.4 billion), it is a “globally sophisticated platform” — and Edmondson is a “standout.” A former private equity manager, the deputy chief is described as “incredibly bright, but not in a one-dimensional way.” Recruiters say Edmondson has the well-rounded skill set, “long-term, thoughtful view,” and “great interpersonal style” needed to lead an endowment or foundation.


Eric Nierenberg

Total score: 69/100

Nierenberg makes a major leap up this year’s list of the Most Wanted Allocators — and for good reason. Even recruiters who typically pass over U.S. public pension fund talent highlight this “capable guy” as a “sleeper hit.” He holds three Harvard degrees, including a PhD with a concentration in behavioral science, and helps run a $73 billion fund under CIO Michael Trotsky’s “great leadership.” Nierenberg is known as “deep technically” and “in the perfect role for jumping to a CIO job.” Plus, “managers respect him.”


Sue Brake

Total score: 71/100

A new addition to the well-regarded sovereign fund — Brake starts as deputy CIO this month — the former Willis Towers Watson consultant has a “fantastic reputation” in the land down under, having previously worked for the NZ Super Fund and National Australia Bank. At the Future Fund, Brake will work alongside two other deputy CIOs: Wendy Norris and David George. Although those familiar with the fund say all three “could be CIOs,” what sets Brake apart is her demonstrated leadership at WTW, where she ran a large part of the investment consulting business.


Donna Snider

Total Score: 81/100

Last year’s No. 1 pick, Snider remains a favorite among recruiters. “She’s very tough to beat,” says one. “She’s got the whole package.” A former actuary, Snider is described as a “specialist at very complex asset classes” and a “highly effective” communicator. Her employer, in turn, is a foundation known for its “progressive” investments. However, some question her willingness to exit her current position for a CIO role. “Is she ever going to leave?” one asks. “There’s been a lot of CIO searches out there that she has not pursued.”


Thomas Woodbury

Total score: 79/100

A top recruiter pick for filling a CIO role, Woodbury is “a star.” With a “sizable team for an endowment,” the Wharton grad is “super polished.” Those in the know say Woodbury has a similar skill set to ex-colleague David Harkins, who got picked off in 2015 to lead the University of California San Francisco Foundation. Woodbury, now heading absolute return strategies at the Penn Office of Investments, started out in equity research, giving him security-level experience.


Monica Spencer

Total score: 67/100

A “very articulate” senior portfolio manager at the nearly $7 billion Mellon Foundation, Spencer is responsible for private equity, venture capital, and hedge fund assets. Recruiters like her background in investment banking, her Ivy League education, and her demonstrated leadership over nearly 13 years at the foundation, including heading up the asset allocation study in 2016. She may have been passed over for Mellon’s CIO job in favor of Scott Taylor — ranked No. 2 on 2018’s Most Wanted Allocators list — but those in the know say Spencer is “on the cusp of becoming a CIO” herself.


Robert Coke

Total score: 76/100

Coke reportedly trained as a Catholic priest before realizing it wasn’t for him. The church’s loss was the Wellcome Trust’s gain: Over the last 19 years, Coke has been “very, very active” in building out the preeminent foundation’s alternatives program. One of five principals running the £25.9 billion fund under co-managing partners Nick Moakes and Peter Pereira Gray, Coke is “clearly very brilliant at what he’s always focused on” — but recruiters note that it can be difficult to make the transition to CIO after working in one asset class for that long. Plus, in the tight European endowment and foundation world, there are “not too many seats for him to go to.”


Kelli Washington

Total score: 74/100

Out of everyone who made last year’s list, Washington is the allocator whose 2018 ranking elicits the most criticism this time around. “Move her up!” is the common refrain regarding this Cambridge Associates veteran, who’s described as “very polished,” “likable,” and “very, very thoughtful.” Her almost ten years of investment consulting experience gives her a “great deal of credibility” with investment committees, even if she doesn’t have a long track record as an asset owner. “I’m a big fan of hers,” one recruiter says. “Keep your eye on her.”


Monica Lai

Total score: 75/100

Lai is a “quiet star” with a “varied background” including roles in private equity and at Pfizer’s corporate pension. Now at the Sloan Foundation, she “has huge responsibilities” in manager selection and due diligence. Her only downside? A lack of experience across a breadth of asset classes. Still, recruiters speak highly of Lai’s personality, leadership, and experience dealing with board members — the result of her “rich career history.”


Alistair Barker

Total score: 71/100

Legit,” as one recommender says. Barker has a prime pre-CIO role at Australia’s largest retirement fund, which is arguably the world’s best overall system. He’s seen as a potential successor to CIO Mark Delaney and praised as a “fantastic mentor,” strong public speaker, and “deep portfolio-wide thinker,” despite his relative youth. “He has a reputation as a CIO in the making,” one commentator says. However, with a boss who is “such a huge figure,” recruiters question how often Barker actually gets in front of the super fund’s board.


Jay Kang

Total score: 75/100

This Yale endowment alum is “ready to go” skills-wise for a CIO job. With a “good reputation” and “good pedigree” from years at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Kang is “certainly” strong from a technical standpoint. With the No. 2 at Stanford’s endowment retiring, Kang may have the chance to move up under “powerhouse CEO” Rob Wallace, who has turned around the once-troubled SMC.


Elise McDonald, Olivier Rousseau

Elise McDonald’s total score: 69/100

A “very good investor,” McDonald oversaw absolute return investments, then portfolio strategy, before taking on a generalist role under HMC’s latest CEO, Narv Narvekar. The formerly “dysfunctional” environment at Harvard meant a lack of “proper mentorship” for McDonald in the past, but under Narvekar she’s getting “good exposure and breadth.”

Olivier Rousseau’s total score: 69/100

One of three executive board members of FRR — the French equivalent of APG — Rousseau “could manage any portfolio tomorrow.” The “brilliant” investor is not well known outside of France — but he “should be.” Described as “very thoughtful” and a “good politician,” Rousseau works closely with the €33 billion ($36.9 billion) pension fund’s asset managers as head of manager selection. “Olivier should be a CIO somewhere,” one recommender says. “Frankly, the only reason he’s not is because he’s expensive and he has a young family. Maybe he’s privileged stability over career.”


Kathryn Graham

Total score: 76/100

Graham was “effectively the No. 2” in command at USS before she left the £64 billion pension scheme in February. Now a free agent, Graham is “definitely in demand.” Recruiters say she’s “very well thought of” in the industry, having done everything from managing hedge funds to spearheading the design of a new defined contribution plan — and her role only got broader in her later years at USS. “She could turn her hand to running almost any kind of asset owner,” one notes. “It may not be a pure CIO role — she may well end up as a CEO.”


Geoffrey Love, Christy Richardson

Geoffrey Love’s total score: 68/100

The second-largest charitable foundation in the world, the Wellcome Trust is “like the Yale of EMEA.” With 21 years at the foundation under his belt, Love is ripe for the picking — if he ever plans to move. He heads up venture capital, gaining experience on both sides of the boardroom table as the Wellcome Trust’s representative at portfolio company meetings. In his free time, Love sits on the investment committee at Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Christy Richardson’s total score: 68/100

In the heart of Silicon Valley, the “massive but under-the-radar” Hewlett Foundation pulls down “some of the best” returns in the business. CIO Ana Marshall “does a lot” as chief, including dealing with the “board, politics,” etc. — which lets her lean team grind at investing. “Hewlett doesn’t have a Yale-style leadership machine” to tutor Richardson on board wooing. But it does have an alpha machine, anchored by “supremely talented venture directors” — Richardson included.


Ryan Akkina

Total score: 70/100

Akkina is one of two “superstars” recruiters rave about on Seth Alexander’s “very young team” of generalists. The other, of course, is No. 1 Vince Tuohey, who’s “more senior” than Akkina despite having the same title. “They’ll be running stuff pretty soon,” one recommender asserts. MIT deserves “full marks for the reputation of the institution,” which helps Akkina’s pedigree score, as does his BS in management science and engineering from Stanford. As a 2008 graduate, however, Akkina needs more years of experience to prove he’s a leader who’s ready to joust with a board.


Barbara Zvan

Total score: 80/100

Zvan “is extremely experienced, very bright, even-keeled” — traits an institution desires in its head of risk, one of the hardest positions to fill, according to recruiters. Zvan’s dual risk-strategy mandate is rare, and the addition of responsible investing chief makes her job one of a kind. At many funds, “it’s a big question mark if the strategist’s advice is going to be implemented,” says one insider. Not with Zvan. “She’s got a lot of influence on the actual investment strategy.” Zvan also chairs the International Center for Pension Management, has taught at the University of Toronto’s business school, and advises the province on pension policy. “She could be the architect” of any pension fund.