Two years after spinning out from the state’s Division of Investment, New Jersey’s Police and Firemen’s Retirement System has hired a chief investment officer.
Russell Niemie, who was previously the CIO for the New York State Nurses Association, started working as investment chief for the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System in October, his LinkedIn profile and public meeting documents show.
In 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that would separate PFRS from the state’s $78.35 billion Division of Investment, which previously managed their assets.
“This is their money, and they should be able to decide what’s best,” said New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon Johnson in a statement at the time. “If the police and firefighters who put their lives at risk for us daily feel they can do better with smarter investments, we should not stand in their way.”
Johnson noted in the statement, published on the Assembly Democrat’s website, that PFRS is “more sound” than other funds and that returns from the State Investment Council resulted in lower-than-average returns compared to cheaper index funds.
A source familiar with the matter said that although Niemie has already started working for the retirement system, PFRS assets are still being transferred from the Division of Investment. The transfer will be sizable — PFRS had $25.3 billion in investment holdings on June 30 2019, an actuarial valuation report published in March showed.
The source added that the new retirement system won’t start investing until 2021. It’s still unclear exactly how much the new entity will have to invest, or whether, as Johnson signaled, it will focus on a more passive investing approach.
A spokesperson for the New Jersey Division of Investment did not return a phone call or email seeking comment on Niemie becoming CIO at PFRS.
Niemie most recently worked as vice chairman and partner at credit firm White Oak Global Advisors, where he left in October 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Before joining the firm in 2016, he spent 16 years as the CIO for the New York State Nurses Association. He has also been the CIO at Commerce Capital Management and the Employees Retirement System of Texas, per his LinkedIn. Niemie did not immediately return a LinkedIn message seeking comment.
The search for the PFRS CIO role was completed by Michael Kennedy at recruiting firm Korn Ferry.