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Investor Lifetime Achievement Award
In 1982, Linda Strumpf made the fateful decision to use her money management skills to improve the human condition. I liked the idea of working where you were helping organizations, says Strumpf, 65. The whole idea of being in the nonprofit world really appealed to me. It appealed to her so much that after ten years as a vice president and portfolio manager at Equitable Life Assurance Society, she spent the next 27 at the Ford Foundation, which was created in 1936 to promote democratic values, reduce poverty and encourage international cooperation.
Strumpf earned a BA in economics from Pennsylvania State University in 1969 and an MBA from New York University in 1972, then began working in asset management at Equitable. She joined the Ford Foundation as director of equity investments, managing an internal portfolio and overseeing six analysts and two traders. In 1993 she became the first female CIO of a major foundation. I always felt the responsibility that women like to see other women succeed, she explains. I was the first generation to do that.
As Ford CIO, Strumpf took over a then-$6.4 billion portfolio for an institution with 13 global offices. She traveled around the world to see the work the foundation was doing, and this inspired her to look beyond mere performance numbers. One of Strumpfs most lucrative investment decisions was made in 1993, when she completely revamped the foundations private equity portfolio just as the technology boom was beginning. She focused on early-stage venture funds, which gave Ford stakes in home runs like Amazon.com, eBay, Google and Yahoo.
Strumpf was at Ford when the financial markets began their meltdown in 2007, and she saw the benefit of not blindly following the so-called endowment model, which emphasizes a large allocation to illiquid private investments with long lockup periods. I had a certain healthy skepticism about how people were managing endowments and foundations, she says.
Portfolios were getting way ahead of themselves. During the crisis Fords portfolio retained full liquidity without resorting to borrowing to meet its legally required 5 percent distribution, and it lost less than the average foundation or endowment with more than $1 billion in assets.
In 2008, as Strumpf was preparing to retire from the Ford Foundation and end her three-decade-long investment career, she accepted an invitation to join the investment committee of the new Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in
New York, which is dedicated to medical research. I told them, You need to hire a CIO, she says. Not surprisingly, Strumpf was asked to take on that role herself. I failed retirement, she quips, recalling the eight-hour break between her September 30, 2009, retirement and her first day as the Helmsley Trusts inaugural CIO.
Starting from scratch, Strumpf wrote the trusts investment policy, objectives and guidelines with the investment committee. When she was ready to step down from the now-60-strong foundation, she handpicked its next CIO: Rosalind Hewsenian, a longtime Wilshire Associates executive who had been deputy CIO of the Helmsley Trust for the previous year.
Strumpf, who stayed on as chairman of the trusts investment committee, also heads the finance committee and the investment council at Penn State; she is a director of the $150 billion MetLife Funds board and on the investment committee of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Frances Denmark
In 1982, made the fateful decision to use her money management skills to improve the human condition. I liked the idea of working where you were helping organizations, says Strumpf, 65. The whole idea of being in the nonprofit world really appealed to me. It appealed to her so much that after ten years as a vice president and portfolio manager at Equitable Life Assurance Society, she spent the next 27 at the Ford Foundation, which was created in 1936 to promote democratic values, reduce poverty and encourage international cooperation.