Institutional Investor is pleased to announce the finalists for the second annual Allocators’ Choice Awards.
Finalists were chosen based on nominations submitted over the summer and vetted by Institutional Investor’s editorial team. Starting this week, asset allocators will cast ballots for the ultimate winners, to be crowned on November 29, 2018, at dinner at the Mandarin Oriental in New York City.
The awards dinner will follow the Masterclass — an afternoon of discussion among an exclusive group of asset allocators and managers, where attendees will share, debate, and tackle institutional investing’s intractable problems.
Peer voting will occur online, and is open to in-house investment staff members of pension funds, endowments, foundations, sovereign wealth funds, and family offices worldwide. Many will receive an email today with their exclusive voting code. To request a ballot, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Voting closes Monday, October 15, at 5 p.m. ET.
Click here to see the categories and last year’s winners, with quotes from nominations for the eventual victors.
Allocators, request an invitation now to the Masterclass and dinner.
Partnership of the Year
Alaska Permanent Fund, Public Institution of Social Security of Kuwait, RPMI Railpen, and Wafra
“Allocators talk often about joining with other allocators, but it rarely happens,” one nominator points out. But this year, Alaska Permanent and Railpen teamed up with Kuwait’s social security fund for an “innovative” joint venture with alternatives firm Wafra — a new fund named Capital Constellation. Its mission: “To back the next generation of private equity and other alternatives managers with a $1.5 billion seeding strategy.” The three allocators committed a combined $700 million to seed the Wafra-advised fund, which will provide “substantial” commitments to emerging managers in exchange for revenue-sharing arrangements. As of February, Constellation had committed $100 million to its first strategic partner, private equity firm Astra Capital Management.
Alaska Permanent Fund and McKinley Capital Management
In another “unique collaboration,” Alaska Permanent and McKinley Capital partnered to launch a closed-end fund targeting the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia — a region they view as the “next BRIC.” As then-CIO Russell Read of Alaska Permanent explained, the sovereign fund was “the opposite of a dog-and-pony show. We had the idea and then found the manager which would be most suitable.”
Employees Retirement System of Texas and Paamco
In late June, the public pension fund and the funds-of-hedge-funds firm announced an innovative project: The two allocators had paired up on an emerging-manager seeding platform, and aimed to raise $3 billion to support it. The effort will build on ERS’s existing $1 billion emerging-manager program, as well as Paamco’s expertise in the sector. Even though small managers tend to outperform, according to researchers, both asset owners and incubators have broadly failed to support them. “The ‘walk to talk’ ratio of the seeders was quite low as the majority of them made fewer seeding investments than what they had been targeting,” according to one longtime allocator. This partnership aims to change that.
Amherst Holdings, BNY Mellon, and Texas Treasury Safekeeping Trust Co.
The Texas Treasury’s trust company was a seed investor in Amherst Capital, a joint venture founded in 2015 by Amherst Holdings and BNY Mellon. This year, BNY and TTSTC upgraded the strategic partnership, swapping their stakes in Amherst Capital for an interest in Amherst Holdings. Amherst Capital became a fully owned subsidiary of Amherst Holdings, giving the two stakeholders broader access to the real estate manager.
Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System, NISA Investment Advisors, and University of Missouri
First St. Louis–based NISA began working on a portable-alpha program with Missouri state pension giant MOSERS. Then word spread. “They ran it with success for well over a decade, and that introduced the strategy to a number of pension plans in the state,” University of Missouri CIO Thomas Richards told II for a much-read article. MOSERS’ experience “helped a huge amount with our board,” Richards said, “because we could sit down and talk to people in our state that had actually done it, and very successfully. It was not a new concept.” Partnership at work.
Turnaround of the Year
Harvard Management Co. (N.P. “Narv” Narvekar, CEO)
In his first year at the long-troubled HMC, CEO Narv Narvekar threw out the old “hybrid” model and embarked on a five-year plan to whip the endowment manager into shape. The most drastic change: eliminating half of its 230-person staff. Some specialist teams were spun out as external managers, and remaining investment staffers were reassigned to more generalist roles. Under Narvekar they’re getting “proper mentorship” — a step up from the “dysfunctional” environment of years past.
North Dakota State Investment Board (David Hunter, Executive Director & CIO)
CIO David Hunter is praised for “modernizing” North Dakota’s state funds, having restructured the fixed-income portfolio to include private debt and moved toward higher allocations in other private assets. Currently, the fund is growing its private equity portfolio and seeking out infrastructure managers to bring its infrastructure allocation up to 11 percent of the total portfolio.
Orange County Employees Retirement System (Molly Murphy, CIO)
Molly Murphy “inherited a plan that was managed in a dramatically different fashion by her predecessors,” according to one nominator. But “within the space of just 12 months, she managed to deliver meaningful enhancements across a wide range of critical factors,” including “cultural changes” that empower staff via “delegated authority, thus allowing them to manage and execute investment decisions in a more efficient and nimble fashion.” Add a direct private equity program (as opposed to the historical use of funds-of-funds), and Murphy is “a strong candidate for the turnaround of the year.”
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (John Greenberg, CIO)
As the man entrusted with troubled pension funds turned over to the PBGC, John Greenberg is no stranger to turnarounds. The PBGC itself was underfunded when it hired him in 2008 as its inaugural CIO to implement a more aggressive investment policy. At the time, the fund had an equity target of just 15 to 25 percent, with the bulk of its assets in fixed-income. Under Greenberg’s leadership, the PBGC closed its funding gap — allowing the organization to refocus on protecting retirement benefits.
Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico (Dominic Garcia, CIO)
This “small team has been able to implement governance and strategic changes” under the nascent tenure of SWIB alumnus Dominic Garcia. The CIO has likewise built an innovative risk-budget approach that some would recognize as part of SWIB’s success, and built a process to accommodate full manager selection delegation from the board to the investment team. He’s led the often tricky “adoption of risk parity,” and the board has “managed through CIO and deputy CIO turnover. All in one year.”
Rainwater Charitable Foundation (Randy Kim, CIO)
Richard Rainwater made his fortune running money for a member of the Bass family. Randy Kim, by all indications, will help the Rainwater Foundation deliver on its mission. Kim is a first-generation Yale pup and “a great mentor.” Although his fervent support for Notre Dame’s football team may not show it, Kim attended Yale and spent years working under David Swensen at the infamous endowment office. He took over the Rainwater Foundation in May 2016 after “a national search with comprehensive due diligence,” and he has endeavored to turn over much of the portfolio since then. “Randy is working hard. And his killer track record from the Hilton Foundation speaks for itself.”
Technology User of the Year
APG Asset Management (Ronald Wuijster, CEO)
The giant Dutch manager of public retirement assets has “quietly” built a system to rival many of the off-the-shelf portfolio management platforms that North Americans are only just flirting with now. “It’s sophisticated, well staffed, and professional.” Furthermore, the organization has been aggressive — and collaborative — in its use of alternative data to improve investment outcomes. COO Marcel Prins teamed up with two Stanford University researchers on a paper that called out “exploitative” strategies pursued by hedge funds and other asset managers, and advocated for more fitting applications, such as during the due diligence process. “Inventive collation and synthesis of documents, such as emails, investment memos, and contracts, can uncover precious metadata that is able to provide insights for enhancing communication, culture, negotiation, time allocation, benchmarking, and diligence,” the authors explained. At APG the process is underway.
Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (Sriram Lakshminarayan, Chief Risk Officer)
Nominators praise IPERS for its “fantastic use of technology in risk management.” The effort is being spearheaded by chief risk officer Sriram Lakshminarayan, who has focused heavily on improving the pension fund’s manager selection process. His goal is to ensure that active managers deliver true alpha, not factor exposure — and he’s doing it through the use of advanced quantitative tools. Using neural networks, the fund is “regressing daily returns against factor exposures” — “very different” from peers.
OPTrust (James Davis, CIO)
The C$20 billion pension system has been fully funded for almost a decade. Keeping that achievement is priority No. 1, but technology has also been integrated into the organization at every level. In the portfolio, for example, OPTrust teamed up with 2017 Tech User finalist GIC to invest $800 million in data centers, which it calls “essentially the factories of 50 years ago.” On a level that touches every member, OPTrust’s user interfaces are smooth, modern, and reliable. The firm scores an average 9 out of 10 in overall member satisfaction, and offers explicit promises on how long services will take. Imagine that. For OPTrust it’s a reality.
Princeton University Investment Co. (Andy Golden, President)
Back-office teams often don’t get the recognition they deserve. But Princeton’s operations staff is a powerhouse, just as Princo’s investment team is. The portfolio runs on a state-of-the-art technology platform, with support from the group’s custodian. Director of investment technology Glenn Wemple joined Princo in 2014, having previously run IT systems for the university’s second-most-important office: admissions.
Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP) (Neil Cunningham, CEO)
The problem: PSP’s Absolute Return Strategies Group (PMARS) needed “access [to] near-real-time analytics (including aggregated exposure),” as well as a solution that would “provide consistency and accuracy in their investment activities, reduce risk, and increase uniformity.” The solution: PSP partnered with Bloomberg “to build a cutting-edge, multisource, intraday analytics platform” that went live in May 2018.
Texas Municipal Retirement System (T.J. Carlson, CIO)
The “risk team built an internal data warehouse from scratch and is using it to drive most of their analysis,” says one in-the-know nominator. U.S. public pension funds tend to have a tougher time getting resources — both talent and budget — for such a project, yet CIO T.J. Carlson has pulled it off. “While results speak for themselves, the commitment and talent behind them are often harder to observe.” In this case, the happy risk team at TMRS also speaks for itself.
Washington University Investment Management Co. (Sean Arp, Chief Operating Officer)
“Washington University in St Louis is under the radar — leading the investment office tech game among large U.S. endowments,” says one nominator. “Sean Arp, chief operating officer, is leading the charge.” The roughly $8 billion fund has been even quieter since changing CIOs from Kimberly Walker to Scott Wilson last September, nabbing the new leader from Grinnell College. But the market knows Wilson has taken over a hot tech shop.
Change Maker of the Year
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Ted Eliopoulos, CIO)
America’s largest pension this spring unveiled plans for a platform to invest directly in private equity and venture capital. The proposed program, CalPERS Direct, would be made up of two separate funds, each governed by its own board. The program is still awaiting final approval from the retirement system’s board, but a successful implementation next year could serve as a blueprint for other U.S. pensions seeking to go direct.
New York University (Retirement Plan Committee)
NYU was one of several universities to be swept up in a surge of litigation targeting U.S. retirement plan sponsors over “excessive” fees paid to recordkeepers and fund managers. Rather than settle, NYU fought back — and won. A district court judge ruled that though the retirement plan committee admittedly had some “deficiencies,” there was no evidence that it had “acted imprudently,” as the plaintiffs claimed — a victory for prudent plan sponsors everywhere.
San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System (William Coaker, CIO)
William Coaker left the University of California to take over San Francisco’s public pension system, and has done a “tremendous job with a sometimes challenging situation” — that is, funding the interests of public servants in a city increasingly dominated by tech. Coaker’s strategy has been to bring the two together: Buy local property for the portfolio, gain exposure to disruptive technology, and build a team of experts in both.
State of Wisconsin Investment Board (David Villa, CIO)
SWIB’s philosophy of separating alpha and beta — and aggressively hunting alpha — has begun to spread beyond the walls of the public pension fund in Madison, Wisconsin. Could the SWIB Model become for public pension funds what the Yale Model has been for endowments? Alum and David Villa protégé Dominic Garcia thinks so: “I hold up Wisconsin as a model pension system in the U.S. — and frankly, I think over at Wisconsin, they would compare themselves against the Canadians and the Dutch and the Australians.”
Teacher Retirement System of Texas (Jerry Albright, CIO)
All good things come to an end — unless, it seems, you work at Texas Teachers. Following the departure of star CIO Britt Harris, many observers expected a less ambitious TRS. They were wrong. Under new CIO Jerry Albright, the plan completed its Global Equity Best Practices project, which resulted in an increase in internal management “from 48 percent to 56 percent of the portfolio” (with more coming) and the “increased use of Internally developed quantitative portfolios.” Even more ambitious is the staffing goal: To support such internalization — unusual for an American public plan — TRS is looking to add 120 heads over the next five to seven years. Gird your loins for the next legislative session in Austin . . .
Team of the Year
California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Christopher Ailman, CIO)
The hiring of new deputy CIO Scott Chan (tied for 27th on II’s Most Wanted Allocator list while still at University of California’s investment office) is just the latest in CIO Chris Ailman and CalSTRS’ efforts to bring “top-notch talent” to Sacramento. Ailman is a big believer in, and supporter of, making teams (including his own) more diverse. Perhaps most prominently, he was a vocal supporter of State Street Global Advisors’ “Fearless Girl” campaign. It makes sense: How better to beat crosstown rival CalPERS (not the goal, we know, but still . . .) than by bringing as much talent in-house as possible?
EquiTrust Life Insurance Co. (Kenyatta Matheny, CIO)
Chief investment officer Kenyatta Matheny joined in 2016 after an acquisition, having previously served six years as investment director at a challenging organization: the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois. He “brought some colleagues from there — directors have specific strengths and responsibilities,” and it’s an “overall collaborative team.” The “mission at Equitrust is to make a positive impact in the community and to support financial literacy among minorities — investment returns are important to support these goals.” Accomplishments thus far include “steady growth of assets and providing the company with liquidity and income.” Expect more to come from this admired group.
Helmsley Charitable Trust (Rosalind Hewsenian, CIO)
Roz Hewsenian — herself “everyone’s idol” and winner of this year’s lifetime achievement award — has a stacked team in New York City. Director of investments Al Kim surprised a lot of people last winter when he triumphed by peer vote as the most likely future CIO at II’s Allocators’ Choice Awards. “Al’s quiet — he’s amazing but kind of shy.” Thoughtful, experienced, and authentic, Kim trounced slicker peers in answering tricky questions on leadership and judgment. And Helmsley director of risk and operations Christopher Rapcewicz was straight out of a hedge fund when he joined, and Blackstone before that. Hewsenian — and thus Helmsley — “roll deep.”
Kresge Foundation (Robert Manilla, VP & CIO)
Any recruiter will tell you that the Kresge Foundation is stacked with top investment talent. The $3.8 billion fund boasts a winning track record thanks to II’s Most Wanted Allocators alumni like Donna Snider (No. 1 on the 2018 listing) — “who will be a CIO somewhere” — and John Barker (No. 16), a “seasoned” investor hired out of Notre Dame’s investment office. The all-star team is led by CIO Robert Manilla, who joined the foundation in 2005 and rose to CIO just three years later.
Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies (Shawn Wischmeier, CIO)
Recruiters believe that a sure sign of good leadership is when employees follow their boss from one job to the next. CIO Shawn Wischmeier has achieved just that: Deputy CIO Mike Ruetz (No. 39 on II’s Most Wanted Allocators list) moved with Wischmeier from the North Carolina Retirement Systems to the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. “Always a good sign,” as one recruiter said — as are the other talented investors that the affable Wischmeier has brought to Minnesota.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (Jason Klein, CIO)
Despite a quiet demeanor, CIO Jason Klein will often get most of the attention — he was, after all, voted CIO of the Year at the inaugural Allocator Choice Awards in 2017. But managers who work with him at Memorial Sloan Kettering, as well as other industry observers, speak fondly of Klein’s “deep bench” and “happiness in empowering staff.”
OPTrust (James Davis, CIO)
If anyone didn’t know that OPTrust belongs to the big leagues of Canadian pension funds, they should now. “What used to be a very conservative and plain-vanilla plan, James Davis is building into a new Ontario Teachers’.” OPTrust’s CIO came over from “the mother ship” — Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan — where he’d been chief economist, in September 2015. Since then the fund has been busy “implementing a completely new asset allocation, expanding the team, and bringing some trading in-house.” Notable talent includes strategic director Wei Xie, who will compete in the finals for Next CIO the same night the Allocators’ Choice Awards winners are revealed.
University of Chicago (Mark Schmid, VP & CIO)
There’s no question Mark Schmid can identify and develop talent — just ask any one of the current CIOs who got their start working under him at Chrysler or Boeing. His current team at University of Chicago is no different: Schmid claims that any of his managing directors “could be CIOs anywhere.” Standouts include Prakhar Bansal, the head of strategy, and Matt Stone, who leads public markets and hedge funds.
University of Notre Dame (Scott Malpass, VP & CIO)
Like a quieter Yale, Notre Dame isn’t known just for returns. Like David Swensen, Scott Malpass, the Fighting Irish’s longtime CIO, has also been integral to developing many investment careers. Most prominent among the current crop: private equity investment director Timothy Dolezal, who recruiters commenting for II’s Most Wanted Allocators labeled as Notre Dame “born and bred” and Malpass’s “heir apparent.”
University of Texas Investment Management Co. (Thomas Britton “Britt” Harris IV, President, CEO, & CIO)
When Britt Harris took over Utimco, his top priority was to attract and retain the best of the best. He’s succeeding on both counts. Key hires like Deputy CIO Rich Hall and managing director Scott Slayton bolster what Harris describes as an already “very highly talented” team. Their goal? “To be the preferred employer in the Southwest.”
Investment Committee/Board of the Year
BP America (Brian Smith, Chair)
With the leadership of veteran investor Mark Thompson, BP America’s board has done the hard and important work in recent years. “They’ve restructured committee oversight and reporting; got out of lawsuits resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; and generated top performance,” says one nominator. Chair Brian Smith, who works out of Houston, has masterfully helped transition CIOs, from the high-profile Greg Williamson to Thompson, who likewise earns plaudits for being “technical” and “down-to-earth.”
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Priya Mathur, President; and Principal Financial Analyst, BART)
The CalPERS Board of Administration demonstrated its sponsorship of the investment office this summer when its compensation and talent committee approved a substantial salary increase for the retirement system’s next CIO. Beyond raising pay, the board has also supported the investment team throughout efforts to develop a direct investing platform for private equity.
Mercy Health (Cheryl Alston, Chair; and Executive Director, Employees’ Retirement Fund of the City of Dallas)
Chaired by Cheryl Alston, director of the Dallas public employees’ pension fund, Mercy Health’s investment committee is a “guiding force” for the health care fund, “collaboratively engaging with the investment team to pioneer new investment policies” like de-emphasizing return targets in favor of targeting volatility. The committee’s sponsorship of this risk-based approach has resulted in a 2.2 Sharpe ratio since the policy’s inception — and the group has gone on to sponsor other efforts, like Mercy’s new socially responsible investment policy. As one nominator writes, the investment committee’s “deep experience, desire to achieve excellence, visionary attitude, and collaborative style . . . continue to drive one of the best institutional investment programs in the country.”
Oregon Investment Council (Rukaiyah Adams, Chair; and CIO, Meyer Memorial Trust)
The state investment council is renowned for making “forward-thinking” and proactive decisions, including hiring staff to save on fees and lowering its assumed rate of return. Most recently, vice chair John Russell made headlines — and helped further an important debate within investment management — when he grilled TPG Capital co-founder Jim Coulter over his firm’s lack of diversity.
Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico (James Maxon, Chair; and Fire Chief, Sandoval County Fire Department)
Last year, New Mexico’s $16 billion pension fund needed a chief investment officer after its CIO was poached to lead Los Angeles County’s $50 billion retirement system. The PERA trustees and executive director made what was in some ways a bold choice: They picked a native son, SWIB’s Dominic Garcia. Garcia came home with a model and a mission — Wisconsin-style investing to benefit New Mexicans. Since bringing him on, the board has undergone “complete governance change,” delegated “all investment implementation and selection to staff,” and “reduced the assumed rate of return to 7.25 percent.”
University System of Maryland Foundation (Bonnie Stein, Chair; and CEO, Jemma Financial Services)
Investment committee chair Larry Boggs and overall foundation chair Bonnie Stein gave young CIO Sam Gallo “time to prove himself.” And because he did, they’re now showing their trust. Gallo has proven himself a “strong and reliable leader,” and in turn, Stein and Boggs have divested the committee of some manager-level control over University of Maryland’s portfolio. Finally, they’ve given Gallo the all-important nod to expand his team. Stein, an insider says, “is great at policy setting.”
Chief Investment Officer of the Year
T.J. Carlson, Texas Municipal Retirement System
Despite having “fewer resources and more governance challenges” than its peers, TMRS under T.J. Carlson has seen a “wholesale shift in asset allocation.” As one nominator explains, Carlson has “built an outstanding investment team and taken TMRS from a passively invested fund, just beginning to hire active managers, to a highly diversified, actively managed fund with 35 percent in alternative investments.” Carlson brings a “unique combination of both managerial and investment talent” to TMRS — and the results “speak for themselves.”
Tim Corbett, MassMutual
Out of all the top-notch investors running massive insurance portfolios in North America, Tim Corbett is the No. 1 pick of an industry insider. He has a “reputation for disciplined risk management,” and has demonstrated his “leadership capabilities over 20-plus years.”
Robin Diamonte, United Technologies
What’s to be said about the indomitable Robin Diamonte that hasn’t already been said? The leader of a $50 billion-plus pension plan has been “more aggressive in adopting new structures and strategies than many of our peers,” according to a fellow CIO. She has been at the forefront of retirement income solutions, as well as the inclusion of risk parity in both defined-benefit and defined-contribution plans. Not satisfied with merely a day job, Diamonte also earned a seat on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.’s advisory board following an appointment by then-President Barack Obama.
David Holmgren, Hartford HealthCare
Where to start with the famous David Holmgren? His returns, perhaps. The $3 billion hospital foundation put another stellar year in the books for fiscal year 2017, returning 12 percent to finish in the top-2 percentile of endowments and foundations. The “relentlessly generous” Holmgren has an uncanny ability to “put a word in” whenever a friend or fellow allocator needs it most. And judging by last year’s win for Partnership of the Year with Neuberger Berman, this CIO has the support of his community.
Robert Hunkeler, International Paper
Hunkeler was labeled by one nominator as a “visionary plan sponsor” for, among other accomplishments, the “culmination of his work in enhancing the 401(k) plan’s retirement income product” and “substantially de-risking the pension fund using a myriad of risk mitigation strategies.” He’s done all this with a “steadfast promotion of active management, even in the face of the rising tide of indexation.” The result of his work, as well as of corporate commitment from International Paper: a 91 percent funded defined-benefit plan and $230 million in defined-contribution outperformance since 2003. Take that, indexers.
Kim Lew, Carnegie Corp.
“Almost anyone on Kim’s team could be CIO one day.” That ringing endorsement of the CIO’s work reflects Lew’s “preternatural” dedication to talent management and deep intuition as to what team Carnegie needs at any point. She’s “loved and admired” in the tight community of New York City CIOs — most of all, perhaps, by Meredith Jenkins, her one-time co-CIO at Carnegie.
Robert Manilla, Kresge Foundation
When he took over as CIO in 2008, Robert Manilla “essentially turned over the entire Kresge portfolio without outside help” — and the fund has consistently delivered strong investment returns ever since. Now ten years in, Manilla is applauded by recruiters for Kresge’s “progressive” investments and all-star team.
Donald Pierce, San Bernardino County Employees’ Retirement Association
SBCERA is a “small fund, but intensively smart.” This is “much credit to Don Pierce,” who has “led the pension down an innovative path.” One example provided by a past nominator: a “unique arrangement with Zais to create a risk retention partnership for the purpose of holding risk retention–compliant CLO assets — something well ahead of the market.”
Sue Slocum, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
A “loved and integral part of the health care investing community,” Sue Slocum has been with the country’s seventh-largest pediatric system since 1995. She serves as both CIO and treasurer, responsible for “all banking, debt, pension, and investment management functions,” including a $1.2 billion investment portfolio. Slocum is a “role model” to many and a friend to even more, “constantly driving the community to do better.”
Ash Williams, Florida State Board of Administration
For asset allocators and managers in the know, one must mention just a single item to immediately conjure the CIO at hand: bow tie. But it’s for more than his sartorial elegance that Ash Williams is so well known. Having stepped in as executive director and CIO following recession-era troubles, Williams has brought both stability and returns (72 basis points per year above the benchmark over ten years) to Tallahassee. Now, in a time when an unusual number of public plan CIOs are departing their posts, Williams remains a steady hand at the $200 billion fund.