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Carnegie CIO Goes It Alone

Kim Lew reflects on her first year as the sole CIO of Carnegie Corporation after co-CIO Meredith Jenkins left the endowment.

  • Staff

After five years as co-chief investment officer of Carnegie Corporation, Kim Lew is showing no signs of struggle pushing forward as sole leader of the $3.4 billion endowment.

She’s been making a name for herself as a long-term investor since co-CIO Meredith Jenkins left in March 2016 to become Trinity Wall Street’s first CIO. Nominated by her peers, Lew was selected as CIO of the year at the Institutional Investor Institute’s awards event for endowments and foundations last month.

Although Lew misses bouncing ideas off her former partner, saying “There is no one I think is more talented than Meredith,” she credits the new structure with allowing her team to step up and take more control of managing the portfolio.

“The team can develop their own voice,” Lew said. “With two of us as co-CIOs, we had extra time and could be more in the details of manager selection, and would get involved much earlier in the process than I do now.”

Lew’s confidence in her team’s abilities is high, believing most of them will go on to be CIOs themselves, either at Carnegie or elsewhere. “Our team is successful because we all come at this in different ways,” she said.

Carnegie’s contrarian investment philosophy is a plus for Lew, who said she is “fortunate” to work at an endowment where the investment office has the freedom to suffer short-term underperformance in the service of long-term outperformance. Her team develops views on emerging markets by traveling to different countries to visit local central bankers, economists, and managers.

“Often there’s nothing to invest in at the time,” Lew said, “but when there is an opportunity, we’re ready because we have done the leg work that would enable us to move quickly and be comfortable with being contrarian.”

Even with her success as sole CIO, Lew gave her personal vote for CIO of the year to Jenkins, partly due to her former partner’s “purity of mind” in investing.

“At Carnegie, we don’t bring investments thinking the committee will or won’t like them,” she said. “We bring investments that we think will be good long term for Carnegie. The committee is free to say no.”

Lew earned an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard Business School, according to her bio on Carnegie’s website. She spent more than a decade at the Ford Foundation — including seven years managing allocations to venture capital and buyout funds — before joining Carnegie in 2007 as director of investments.

The freedom to explore contrarian investments suits Lew well.

“I like that Meredith and I have grown up in a place where this is how we think about investing,” she said.