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Allocators: Nominate Your Peers, Your Team, Your Bosses

The Allocators’ Choice Awards are back, and calling for nominees in eight categories for — and voted on by — institutional asset owners.

  • By Leanna Orr

Nominations are now open for Institutional Investor’s second annual Allocators’ Choice Awards, to be held November 29 in New York City.

The event will honor the best of institutional capital, featuring categories such as ‘Turnaround of the Year,’ ‘Partnership of the Year,’ and ‘Team of the Year.’ Winners will be announced at a dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, which will follow an afternoon forum for an elite group of asset allocators and managers — the Masterclass. There, attendees will discuss, debate, and tackle institutional investing’s intractable problems. (Interested in attending? Register.)

Nominations for the Allocators’ Choice Awards will be accepted until July 27 at 5pm in New York, and can be submitted here

Anyone may nominate candidates for any or all categories. Institutional Investor’s editorial team will vet these submissions and announce finalists September 4. Voting will begin at that time, and only asset allocators — pensions, nonprofits, sovereign funds, and the like — will be permitted to cast ballots for the winners.

Categories and last year’s winners are as follows, with quotes from nominations for the eventual victors. 


Allocators’ Choice Awards Categories

Partnership of the Year

Think: Texas Teachers’ strategic partnerships with large private equity houses. Don’t think: Simply buying off-the-shelf asset management services. 2017 winner: State of Wisconsin Investment Board, for the completion of a “three-and-a-half year, $48 million technology overhaul” with the help of project consultant Citisoft, an undertaking “involving eight new technology solutions to deploy daily investment book of record data supporting the long-term needs of the investment management group” — and which required “replacing the entire technology infrastructure.” The enterprise, according to Citisoft, is “one of the most transformative projects by either a public or private pension fund.” 

2017 winner: Hartford HealthCare & Neuberger Berman. CIO David Holmgren and his team pride themselves on their close connections with fund managers, and the fund’s relationship with Neuberger Berman is no exception. From Hartford Healthcare’s first-ever private equity commitment to a Neuberger secondaries fund in 2013, to seeding an untested “consumer brand-licensing” strategy in more recent years, to co-sponsoring gatherings of investment professionals, the two organizations have built a lasting strategic partnership. 

Turnaround of the Year

Think: Cleaning up New York State Common Retirement Fund after the pay-to-play scandal. Don’t think: Doing the same thing as last year; making an already-great fund marginally better.

2017 winner: American Red Cross, for the work of now-ex CIO Greg Williamson. He rebuilt the back office, risk management systems, and investment team by “working seven days a week” and hiring strong talent, such as Jane Western (formerly Boeing’s longtime operations head) and Carol Anne Lindsey (an alum of George Washington University’s endowment). 

Technology User of the Year

Think: The Alberta Investment Management Corporation’s custom-built portfolio dashboard system. Don’t think: A specific product or tech provider, but rather an institution’s top-notch application of a product.

2017 winner: State of Wisconsin Investment Board, for the completion of a “three-and-a-half year, $48 million technology overhaul” with the help of project consultant Citisoft, an undertaking “involving eight new technology solutions to deploy daily investment book of record data supporting the long-term needs of the investment management group” — and which required “replacing the entire technology infrastructure.” The enterprise, according to Citisoft, is “one of the most transformative projects by either a public or private pension fund.” 

Change Maker of the Year

Think: Iconoclastic. United Technologies’ annuity-style 401(k) option; CalPERS’ divesting from hedge funds. Don’t think: A larger or especially successful implementation of the industry status quo. 

2017 winner: Teacher Retirement System of Texas, for the 1-or-30 fee model. “If 1 or 30 works for Texas — and, perhaps, to a large degree for the underlying hedge funds — it’s a game changer,” noted one nominee. Although the move to change fee structures was “met with some hesitation” by the industry (many a hedge fund asked Institutional Investor who was saying yes to the new fees, and who was being fired for saying no), the initial reaction has been largely positive. “While the results of Texas’ test won’t be known until we go through a full cycle,” it is “hard not to argue that TRS, if successful, will change the way hedge funds get paid.” 

Team of the Year

Think: The group that once populated the Chrysler treasury function — and that subsequently spread out to become CIOs throughout the corporate and endowment fund universe. Don’t think: Your OCIO; a superstar CIO with deputies no one seems to know.

2017 winner: State of Wisconsin Investment Board. A “home to top talent in American public fund investing,” SWIB “comes closer to Canadian and Nordic funds in their portfolios than almost any other major American fund, largely on the back of David Villa and the talent he has brought in-house.” Multiple nominators mentioned Dominic Garcia, the fund of funds manager and “point man on many external relationships,” as a “key member of the team.” 

Investment Committee/Board of the Year

Think: A public pension board that lowers its assumed rate of return, despite political pressure. Don’t think: Famous names alone are enough.

2017 winner: Hartford HealthCare. The CIO-packed investment committee is a “key factor” behind the fund’s consistently high returns. Made up of industry practioners like Aetna CIO Jean LaTorre and Eversource Utilities’s investment chief Bob DeAngelo, the committee “always has the insider’s perspective” and remains committed to the “big picture.” Though they may challenge CIO David Holmgren and his team “like only other CIOs could,” the “absolutely brilliant” group is also “collaborative and supportive.” 

Chief Investment Officer of the Year

Think: Jack Meyer, during his tenure at Harvard. Any investment chief exhibiting all-around excellence at portfolio construction, risk management, asset allocation, manager selection, board relations, and talent development — or one who has built a team achieving all that. Don’t think: Only CIOs of large funds.

2017 winner: Jason Klein of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Smart,” savvy, thoughtful, generous — “Jason is the kind of guy who will literally give you the watch off his wrist.” Klein is among the most-liked figures in the burgeoning health care investment scene, and leads the young community with grace and vigor. “This guy is as good as the institution he’s investing for.” 


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