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Investment Chief Quits $4B Memorial Hermann Health Fund

Before leaving, Chris Halaska advised against recruiting an outsider to replace him.

Texas’s largest nonprofit health system has lost its chief investment officer Chris Halaska to a Houston wealth manager.

Halaska, now 42, was among the country’s youngest institutional CIOs when he took over at the Memorial Hermann Health System eight years ago. He oversaw close to $4 billion when he left August 14, and put the portfolio into the hands of his former team. 

Senior director Kris Chikelue is now leading the investment group, Halaska told Institutional Investor Wednesday. The outgoing CIO had suggested to the board that Chikelue succeed him, rather than Memorial Hermann hiring recruiters and opening the role to outsiders. 

“I encouraged them not to do a search given the strength of the internal team,” Halaska said. “Disruption is frequently not the best thing for an investment portfolio that has a long-term time horizon.”

A Memorial Hermann spokesperson did not comment on the leadership changes by publication time. 

Halaska is now CIO of Avalon Advisors, an independent RIA overseeing $9 billion for primarily wealthy families and individuals, as well as some small institutions, according to regulatory filings. 

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“Memorial Hermann has been awesome for the last eight years,” Halaska said. “This is a new challenge. It’s a pretty exciting opportunity to take what I learned at Memorial Hermann and apply it to a broader swath of investors. The role is a little more entrepreneurial than leading a traditional allocator, which I like.”

A number of investment leaders have, in recent months, left nonprofits and pension funds to run wealthy people’s money at private firms. 

Disney’s former pension chief Larry Goldsmith, for example, this spring traded oversight of $25 billion in corporate retirement funds for $3 billion multi-family office Mozaic. He remains in Los Angeles. 

“I need two things to thrive: An environment to improve my craft, and one where I’m needed,” Goldsmith told II at the time. “Every place I’ve gone, that’s what I felt. I feel that here at Mozaic. I felt it consulting for Britt Harris at Texas Teachers’, and I felt it at Disney.”

Weeks earlier, Chris Schelling, head of private equity for the Texas Municipal Retirement System, resigned to join another institutional refugee at Windmuehle Funds. The small outfit — founded by ex-Texas Tech investor Robert Lee, and pronounced ‘windmill’ — manages personal assets for many wealthy institutional investors with a wide-open mandate. 

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