The Texas A&M Foundation — which supports the College Station university — has hired as its new investment chief Mike Pia, following a review of the $2 billion fund.
Pia had led the strategic partnership program at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), overseeing about $15 billion, according to a Monday announcement from Texas A&M. The initiative was the brainchild of former TRS chief Britt Harris, and involved signing over huge chunks of assets to a clutch of favored asset managers, in exchange for special fees and investment terms.
TRS will not directly replace Pia, according to CIO Jase Auby. Control of strategic partnerships in private assets has been removed from the dedicated team Pia formerly ran, and reassigned to “senior professionals in their respective portfolios,” Auby said over email via a spokesperson. J.B. Daumerie will remain as head of the public markets partnership program.
Pia started as chief investment officer at the A&M Foundation on May 1, the fund said. The “hire comes at an important time as the foundation investment team seeks to implement forward-thinking endowment management strategies throughout and beyond the period of market volatility during the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to the announcement.
The foundation’s trustees and remaining investment staffers have been running the portfolio since prior CIO Ben Wall left last November for a small real estate private equity firm.
“We are looking at Mr. Wall’s departure as an opportunity to review our nearly $2 billion endowment,” president Tyson Voelkel told Institutional Investor in an email at the time. “I am working closely with my board of trustees to ensure best practices are being utilized.”
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Returns on the university’s long-term investment pool have slightly trailed the average $1 billion-plus nonprofit fund, according to 2019 reports from the foundation and NACUBO-TIAA. Texas A&M gained 5.54 percent for the year ending June 30 versus peers’ 5.9 percent. Over five years, A&M’s 5.34 percent returns lagged the 6.1 percent average.
Voelkel praised the new investment chief’s “character, discipline, and drive” in the announcement. “Mike has a great track record and unlimited potential,” he said. “I know he will be a great partner as we evolve our capabilities and performance.”