These Are the Finalists for the 2021 Allocators’ Choice Awards

Asset-owner peers will choose the winners, to be crowned on September 22 in New York City.

(Bigstock photo)

(Bigstock photo)

Institutional Investor is pleased to announce the finalists for the fourth annual Allocators’ Choice Awards.

Institutional Investor selected the finalists based on a pool of nominations submitted in May and June. Starting now, asset allocators will submit their votes for the winners, who will be crowned on September 22 at dinner at the Mandarin Oriental in New York City.

In-house investment staff members of pension funds, endowments, foundations, sovereign wealth funds, and family offices worldwide can vote online for their peers. To submit a ballot, please use this link. Voting closes on September 1.

Click here to see the categories and past winners.

Allocators, request an invitation now to the dinner.

Advocate of the Year


Cheryl Alston, Executive Director & CIO, Employees’ Retirement Fund of the City of Dallas, for being a patron of diverse and emerging managers and an active member of the Dallas investment community.

Elizabeth Burton, CIO, Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Hawaii, because she “always promotes her team at every opportunity… always puts them first.”

William Coaker, CIO, San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System, for calling on businesses to reorganize their manufacturing, distribution, resources, and service capabilities to fight against Covid-19.

Jose Gonzalez, Investment Officer, Diverse & Emerging Managers, Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois, for leading the fund’s dedicated emerging managers program that makes up 27 percent of its portfolio, “a stat not matched by many other plans within the U.S.”

Carlos Rangel, Vice President & CIO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, for diversity and inclusion initiatives including Racial Equity 2030, a $90 million program to fund programs that reduce inequity.

Kirk Sims, Director of Emerging Manager Program, Teacher Retirement System of Texas, for leading his fund’s investments in 190 emerging managers through 316 investments worth $5.9 billion.

Ashbel Williams, Executive Director & CIO, Florida State Board of Administration, for his continued advocacy on behalf of asset owners, including his work as chairman of the Council of Institutional Investors’ board.

Investment Committee/Board of the Year

Indiana Public Retirement System Board of Trustees (Bret Swanson, Chair), for a “strong focus on governance and risk management” that has helped increase the retirement system’s funded status significantly since 2012.

Smith College Investment Committee (Deborah DeCotis, Chair), for the “bold move” of switching from an outsourced chief investment officer to in-house investing after 17 years. “And they did an even better job by recruiting a Yale alum.”

Teacher Retirement System of Texas (Jarvis Hollingsworth, Chair), for implementing the succession plan of promoting Jase Auby, who began his tenure as chief investment officer in early 2020, and continuing to support TRS’s international presence in London.

Partnership of the Year

California State Teachers’ Retirement System and Fairfield Residential Company, for a long-running partnership that culminated in CalSTRS acquiring a majority stake in the firm. Since then, the two have reportedly worked with other pension funds to set up joint ventures for property deals.

Global Peer Financing Association (California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, and State of Wisconsin Investment Board), for bringing global asset owners together. “The collective power... allows beneficial owners to shape their environment rather than accept the status quo.”

Hartford HealthCare and Standard General, for co-investments in the public markets that have reaped big returns. The two are “sympatico” when it comes to investment styles: they’re “homework intensive” and due diligence oriented.

Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust and Fir Tree Partners, because they “kicked off a SPAC investment mandate before SPAC became a buzz.” The deal made MassPRIM money while “reinvigorating Fir Tree’s business.”

Team of the Year

Advocate Aurora Health (Leslie Lenzo, CIO), for not only managing investments through a hospital merger, but for growing the investment office’s assets to $12 billion.

California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Christopher Ailman, CIO), for continued work in moving investments in-house and ongoing leadership on environmental, social, and governance issues.

New York State Common Retirement System (Anastasia Titarchuk, CIO), for a significant focus on sustainable and climate solutions, “dedication to diversity,” and growth of the fund’s emerging manager program.

Orange County Employees Retirement System (Molly Murphy, CIO), which Murphy has built in numbers and diversity since 2017, and employs a collaborative approach to investing.

San Bernardino County Employees’ Retirement Association (Donald Pierce, CIO), for a successful investment strategy through Covid-19. The team is on track to return more than 30 percent for fiscal year 2021, according to a nominator.

State of Wisconsin Investment Board (Edwin Denson, Executive Director & CIO), for creating “stability in an otherwise unstable year,” and onboarding more than 50 new staff during the pandemic.

Texas Permanent School Fund (Holland Timmins, Executive Administrator & CIO), for the team’s ongoing work to support Texas schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Turnaround of the Year

Delta Air Lines (Jonathan Glidden, Managing Director, Pensions), for taking funded status from “dead last in the S&P 500” to 90 percent, and “now starting to plan a non-traditional de-risking glidepath.”

Lockheed Martin Investment Management Co. (Paul Colonna, President & CIO), for improving savings plan participants’ overall experience through innovations such as a streamlined investment options menu and enhancements to the LMIMCo Target-Date Funds.

Wyoming State Treasurer’s Office (Patrick Fleming, CIO), for rebuilding its now-successful private equity program “from the ground up” after “years of bad press.”

Chief Investment Officer of the Year

Seth Alexander, MIT Investment Management Co., for facilitating a flat, generalist structure that has resulted in low turnover and strong returns.

Michael Brakebill, Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, for creating and building out private equity products, helping Tennessee become one of the “consistently… top performing funds.”

Elizabeth Burton, Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Hawaii, for “creating a great culture with her team” and revamping the retirement system’s risk and portfolio construction.

Matt Clark, South Dakota Investment Council, for deploying cash held by the retirement system into index funds following the March 2020 market crash.

James Davis, OPSEU Pension Trust, for emphasizing a “systematic investing approach” to capital markets and adopting machine learning techniques, all while championing diversity on his team.

Robin Diamonte, Raytheon Technologies, for overseeing investments following the merger of two pension funds worth a total of $100 billion amid a global pandemic.

Samuel Gallo, University System of Maryland Foundation, for turning the university’s two portfolios into “consistent” out-performers and developing a strong team since joining in 2012.

Bryan Lewis, United States Steel Corp., for using his background as a public pension plan CIO to bolster the returns at U.S. Steel’s $6 billion defined benefit plan. In 2020, the fund posted returns of 17 percent, beating its target of between 6.5 percent and 6.9 percent.

Bob Maynard, Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, for staying consistent with PERSI’s conventional investment style, garnering the fund a position in the top quartile of public retirement system performance.

Stefan Strein, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, for operating a large, complex healthcare fund during a global pandemic. Strein has a “keen eye for talent,” and though he is “quiet,” the award would be “well-deserved,” a nominator said.