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David Villa, Wisconsin’s CIO, to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

The longtime leader of Wisconsin’s $117 billion pension fund will be honored for the hedge fund program that he built.

  • By Leanna Orr

David Villa created a model at a U.S. public pension system for successful and aligned hedge fund investing, earning him the allocator lifetime achievement award at Institutional Investor’s 2018 Hedge Fund Industry Awards. 

Villa has spent more than a decade as chief investment officer of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, overseeing SWIB’s $117 billion portfolio on behalf of the state’s workers and citizens. In Madison, Villa garners deep loyalty from his large and world-class investment team. 

The CIO’s 30-year career in the financial industry began as a Princeton University graduate working in the private sector. He climbed the ladder at Chicago-based Brinson Partners, which later became part of UBS Group's asset management unit, to become executive director of client relationships. Heeding the call of public service, Villa became CIO of Florida’s pension system. In 2006, he took the same role in Wisconsin, and put down roots.  

“I hold up Wisconsin as a model pension system in the U.S. — and frankly, would compare them against the Canadians and the Dutch and Australians,” Dominic Garcia, a Villa protégé, the architect of SWIB’s hedge fund program, and now CIO for the state of New Mexico, told Institutional Investor’s Alpha in March.

“The CIO is able to manage in this robust environment and is then able to integrate in best practices across the entire portfolio, and at the end of the day produce results,” Garcia said.

At Villa’s direction, Garcia and a small team of promising investors created a $5 billion hedge fund portfolio from scratch, one that continues to outperform and add value to members today.

“From my time in Wisconsin, I’m a believer in hedge funds,” Garcia said. As a CIO, he’s a big believer in the David Villa model.

Villa will be honored at the 16th Annual Hedge Fund Industry Awards dinner at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York, on Thursday, June 28. 

[II Deep Dive: M. Elaine Crocker To Receive Manager Lifetime Achievement Award]

The manager lifetime achievement award will go to Moore Capital Management president M. Elaine Crocker. 

For more about the dinner, and for a full list of hedge fund investment manager and allocator finalists, please visit the Institutional Investor 2018 Hedge Fund Industry Awards website. Winners will be announced at the event.

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