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Strapped University Fund Hires Investment Deputy

A public pension veteran is taking on Illinois’ $20 billion pension portfolio, among the worst-funded major plans in the country.

The State Universities Retirement System in Illinois has hired a new deputy chief investment officer with a deep background running U.S. public pension funds.

Ellen Hung is joining SURS, which manages $20 billion of assets, from Santa Barbara County Employees’ Retirement System, according to a SURS announcement. Hung will begin her new role in Champaign, Illinois on January 30.

The deputy CIO position opened last year, when SURS promoted Doug Wesley to replace its retiring CIO. Wesley earned $171,238 as deputy CIO in the 2013-14 fiscal year, the most recent figure available on a public database called Pension360.  

Hung and Wesley have the investment challenge of closing a $42 billion funding shortfall — one so large it can’t be resolved through returns alone. SURS covers 230,000 active and retired employees of Illinois’ public universities, according to the fund. It was 44 percent funded at the end of June, assuming 7.25 percent average annual returns, a SURS document shows.

Hung’s background in public finance goes back to the early 1990s at Southern California Edison, where she rose from financial analyst to portfolio manager, according to her LinkedIn profile. Since 2015, she has held executive roles with the City San Jose’s treasury and Santa Barbara County’s pension system.

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