After competing live against six of his peers, Caltech managing director Doug MacBean has been crowned the “Next CIO.”
MacBean, who is responsible for the California Institute of Technology endowment’s public and alternative investments, was the winning contestant chosen by chief investment officers and peers at the third annual Institutional Investor Masterclass, held Tuesday in New York. The competitors were selected from nominations made by their bosses and peers in the industry.
Seven up-and-coming allocators took rapid-fire questions from Institutional Investor’s deputy editor Leanna Orr and last year’s Next CIO winner, Phillip Titolo, head of private investments at MassMutual. Questions ranged from how to deliver bad news to an investment committee to what allocators do on airplanes.
The audience voted on the competitor they found the most impressive, and an award was presented to MacBean at the Allocators’ Choice Awards on Tuesday evening at the Mandarin Oriental.
MacBean won over the audience with answers to questions on whether cryptocurrency deserves a place in an institutional investment portfolio, due diligence failures and triumphs, and what he would do if a member of his team wore a “Make America Great Again” hat to the office, offending another employee.
“The question that caught me the most off guard was the one on cryptocurrency,” MacBean said by phone Friday. “Overall, it’s kind of a blur.”
Venus Phillips, investments director at the Kresge Foundation, was awarded second place, while Roxton McNeal, head of multi-asset strategy and allocation at the UPS Group Trust, placed third.
“Naturally I was a little nervous going into it,” Phillips said of the competition. “Once we got up there, it felt like a chat with friends. We’re trying to solve for the same issues.” She added that the group plans to have follow-up conversations on some of the issues that came up during the competition.
Other finalists included Adri Chaikin, managing director of investments at New York Presbyterian; Joshua Miller, director of absolute return investments at the Georgetown University endowment; Carlos Rangel, director of investments at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Joy Xu, vice president of strategic asset allocation at Verizon Investment Management Corp.
For MacBean, the highlight of the competition was the connections he made with his fellow participants. He said he and Rangel walked the twenty blocks from the Masterclass to the Allocators’ Choice Awards dinner on Tuesday, which gave them a chance to get to know one another.
[II Deep Dive: Meet the Rising Star Allocators Chose as the ‘Next CIO’]
MacBean graduated from Harvard University with a degree in government in 1999. He began his career at the now-defunct tech-focused investment bank Robertson Stephens, where he said he worked as an equity analyst for roughly three years. He spent another three years in equity research at Jefferies.
MacBean said he became interested in working for an endowment or foundation after he had a coffee with John Powers, who at the time was the chief executive officer at Stanford Management Company.
“That was the first time I heard of an endowment managing wealth,” MacBean said. “I found the nature of what he described was electrifying. I doggedly pursued an opportunity there.”
He got the job at Stanford in 2007, where he worked for five years in public equities. He then spent a year as the associate director of investments at Nazarian Enterprises before joining Caltech in 2014. That same year, he earned his MBA from the University of California Los Angeles.
“I can’t stress enough how lucky I am to work with my colleagues at Caltech,” MacBean said. “It is by far the happiest and most fulfilled I’ve ever been.”
The Next CIO runnerup — Phillips — is a recent addition to the Kresge Foundation investment office, having joined in April. She serves on the finance committee of the Hudson-Webber Foundation, which supports community initiatives in Detroit, according to the Kresge website.
Phillips said the initiative she has enjoyed working on most at the Kresge Foundation is its 25 by 25 pledge, which aims to invest 25 percent of the foundation’s U.S.-based assets in minority- and women-owned firms by 2025. She added that the foundation is already more than halfway to its goal.
As for their futures? Both Phillips and MacBean see themselves eventually carrying the title ‘chief investment officer.’
“I do want to be a CIO at some point in my career,” Phillips said. “I am open on the timing. I know some people set very rigid timelines. I want it to be something that happens organically.”
MacBean echoed Phillips: “I would like to serve as a CIO, hopefully for an endowment or perhaps a foundation. What I’ve learned in my 13 years is that supporting a university’s mission resonates with me so resoundingly.”