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Presbyterian Church Announces New CIO for Its $9 Billion Investment Fund

Deputy CIO Donald Walker III will replace Judith Freyer, who is retiring in July.

The Presbyterian Church’s Board of Pensions has named a new chief investment officer to replace Judith Freyer, who announced her retirement in March.  

The $9 billion pension fund said on Thursday that Donald Walker III, who had been working as deputy CIO, has been promoted into that role.  

Walker will begin working as CIO on July 1, and Freyer will step down in July, according to the announcement.  

“Judy’s diligent stewardship throughout more than 30 years has greatly benefited thousands of Benefits Plan members, retirees, and their families,” said the Rev. Frank Clark Spencer, president of the Board of Pensions, in a statement. “For nearly half that time, Don has been at her side.” 

Spencer added that Freyer has mentored Walker through the years. Walker joined the pension fund in 2006 and was promoted to managing director of investments in 2011. He was named deputy CIO in 2016, the announcement said.  

Walker joined from investment firm Janney Montgomery Scott, where he was a vice president and portfolio strategist. Before that, he was a vice president and equity portfolio manager at First Albany Capital. 

“Judy and I have worked together for more than half of my career,” Walker said in a statement. “We’re regularly bouncing ideas off each other. She’s very collaborative and encourages team input. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor — or a better CIO model.” 

Freyer joined the pension plan in 1988 as assistant treasurer, when the pension fund was valued at $2 billion, according to her March retirement announcement. She rose through the ranks and was named CIO in 1999.  

Before joining, Freyer worked at UGI Corp. and for the U.S. Department of Defense.  

“Judy’s path to the board was as the rare woman in a field dominated by men,” said executive vice president Susan Reimann, chief operating officer at the board, in a statement. “Her achievements in an arena that even today has few female executives is due to her intelligence, persistence, and, most of all, her spirit.” 

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According to its website, the pension plan had a 17.8 percent annual return in 2019. The year before that, the pension lost 3.9 percent.  

The pension fund’s Thursday announcement said that going into 2020, the investment team anticipated a market downturn, and built up additional cash resources.  

“This liquidity buffer ensures that the Board of Pensions can continue meeting its obligations to members, retirees, and family members through the crisis without disruption,” according to the announcement.  

A spokesperson did not respond to an email seeking further comment Friday.  

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