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New SWIB Director Leaves for Russell Investments

After less than a year at the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, Rick Smirl will join Russell as its chief operating officer.

  • By Alicia McElhaney

Rick Smirl, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board’s executive director of seven months, has been hired as Russell Investments’ new chief operating officer.

The move, part of a broader effort to build out Russell’s executive team, was announced by the asset management firm on Thursday. Smirl is to start his new role on July 30.

“Rick is an extremely talented senior executive with deep expertise in internal operations and a strategic understanding of both the investment and sales process,” said Russell CEO Michelle Seitz in the company statement. “I am thrilled he is joining Russell Investments and I am confident he will have a positive impact on our firm as we enter our next phase of growth.” 

Smirl had joined SWIB in January after almost 14 years at William Blair Investment Management, including ten years as chief operating officer following four years as chief legal officer. Prior to joining William Blair, Smirl worked as the chief legal officer for the now-defunct financial services firm Strong Capital Management.

“With its world-class investment expertise, broad investment capabilities, and unparalleled asset manager insights, Russell Investments is uniquely situated to provide clients with comprehensive multi-asset solutions,” said Smirl in a statement.

[II Deep Dive: Russell Investments Names Michelle Seitz CEO]

Smirl’s appointment is the latest in a string of new hires completed by Russell Investments this summer. The firm hired Gene Raffone as its chief human resources officer in May and Robert Hostetter as its global head of product in June. 

“All three hires, Smirl, Hostetter, and Raffone, are part of Russell Investments’ focus on leveraging talent and intellectual property across the global organization on behalf of clients,” a spokesperson for Russell said via email.

Smirl will be the firm’s first chief operating officer since the role was eliminated at the beginning of 2017. The last COO, Ian Battye, now works as the company’s chief investment officer of currency and foreign exchange. 

According to the spokesperson, Russell’s president Vernon Barback took over the COO duties after the role was eliminated. He will now turn those responsibilities over to Smirl, and Barback will become vice chairman of the firm. 

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