Asset owners have selected Texas Municipal Retirement System chief T.J. Carlson as their 2018 CIO of the Year.
The honor, bestowed at Institutional Investor’s second-annual Allocators’ Choice Awards in New York City, was voted on by allocators at pension funds, endowments, foundations, sovereign wealth funds, and the like. Carlson was chosen from a group of ten CIOs nominated by their peers for all-around excellence in portfolio construction, risk management, asset allocation, manager selection, board relations, and talent development.
Last year, the award went to Jason Klein, chief investment officer of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Klein presented the award to Carlson on Thursday night during an awards dinner co-hosted by Chris Ailman, CIO of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.
It was the second victory of the night for the Texan pension fund, which was also voted Technology User of the Year for its use of data in risk management, having “built an internal data warehouse from scratch,” according to one nominator.
[II Deep Dive: The Finalists for the 2018 Allocators’ Choice Awards]
Other investment organizations honored over the course of the evening included the Harvard Management Company, which won Turnaround of the Year for CEO Narv Narvekar’s ongoing effort to whip the long-underperforming Ivy endowment into shape, and SWIB, which was voted Change Maker of the Year for its model of separating alpha and beta – and aggressively pursuing alpha.
The University of Notre Dame was awarded Team of the Year, while Catholic health system Mercy won Investment Committee/Board of the Year. Partnership of the Year went to the Alaska Permanent Fund, Public Institution of Social Security of Kuwait, RPMI Railpen, and Wafra, which this year teamed up to provide seed capital to “next generation” private equity and alternatives managers.
In addition, Rosalind Hewsenian, CIO of the Leona M. and Harry B. Hemsley Charitable Trust, was presented with II’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her long and successful career in institutional investing.
The awards dinner followed II’s Masterclass, an afternoon of discussion and debate culminating in the final round of Next CIO, a competition to identify the next generation of allocator talent. Victors and runners-up from four preliminary contests held throughout the year went head-to-head for the ultimate title, with audience members deciding the victor.
After deftly addressing a series of three questions — only two of which he knew in advance — MassMutual Insurance portfolio manager Phillip Titolo was crowned the Next CIO, beating out Michael Griswold (Ascension Investment Management), Waymond Harris (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan), Elizabeth Tulach (Boeing), Valbona Schwab (CareGroup Investment Office), Sharmila Kassam (Employees’ Retirement System of Texas), Wei Xie (OPTrust), and Derek Drummon (State of Wisconsin Investment Board).
Titolo, who joined MassMutual in 2015, impressed the audience with his answers to questions on the fate of direct lending, balancing manager selection with asset allocation, and considerations of diversity in the hiring process.
Texas ERS deputy CIO Sharmila Kassam placed second, while Boeing managing director Elizabeth Tulach took third.