These Are the Winners of the Allocators’ Choice Awards

OPTrust, Smith College, and the State of Wisconsin Investment Board were among those taking home awards on Wednesday.

(Bigstock photo)

(Bigstock photo)

Asset owners have chosen James Davis, the chief investment officer for OPSEU Pension Trust, as the CIO of the Year.

Institutional Investor bestowed the honor at its fourth annual Allocators’ Choice Awards, held at the Mandarin Oriental in New York on September 22. The awards were voted on by asset allocators at pension funds, endowments, foundations, and sovereign wealth funds, among others.

Davis was selected from a group of ten CIOs nominated by their peers for all-around excellence in portfolio construction, risk management, asset allocation, manager selection, board relations, and talent development.

Institutions and individuals in five other categories were also honored over the course of the evening. These included Elizabeth Burton, the chief investment officer of the Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Hawaii, who was named Advocate of the Year. According to a nominator, Burton deserved the recognition because she “always promotes her team at every opportunity… always puts them first.”

In the Investment Committee/Board of the Year category, the Smith College Investment Committee, chaired by Deborah DeCotis, prevailed. The college announced in December 2020 that its investment committee had decided to move from an outsourced chief investment officer model to managing assets internally. They have since hired Yale Investment Office alum Lisa Howie as CIO to begin building out the team.


The Global Peer Financing Association, which includes the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, and State of Wisconsin Investment Board, was voted the winner of the Partnership of the Year award. The organization seeks to develop a more effective and transparent marketplace for securities financing and liquidity and collateral management.

II also awarded the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, headed up by executive director and CIO Edwin Denson, with the Team of the Year award. The SWIB investment office grew by more than 50 employees in the past year.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines and its managing director of pensions, Jonathan Glidden, received the Turnaround of the Year award. The pension’s funded status has gone from “dead last in the S&P 500” to 90 percent and is “now starting to plan a non-traditional de-risking glide path,” according to a nominator.

In addition to these award winners, Institutional Investor honored Columbia University endowment president and CEO Kim Lew with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Lew, who joined Columbia from the Carnegie Corp. in late 2020, was previously named II’s Chief Investment Officer of the Year in 2019.

II also paid tribute to two industry-leading investors who died in 2021: Yale Investment Office’s CIO David Swensen, and SWIB’s CIO and executive director David Villa.

The 2021 Rising Stars were also recognized at the dinner. These up-and-comers, who are poised to become industry leaders, include Steven Wilson (Teacher Retirement System of Texas), Tom Borghard (Raytheon Technologies), Lyndsey Farris (Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds), Justin Maistrow (State of Rhode Island), Sharif Siddiqui (James Irvine Foundation), Chad Myhre (Heinz Family Office), Adam Schwab (Modern Woodmen of America), Kelli Washington (Cleveland Clinic), Ben Bronson (Fire and Police Association of Colorado), Anupam Kathpalia (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), Jingwun (Grace) Moore (Georgia Tech Foundation), and Jason Rector (State of Wisconsin Investment Board).