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UC Regents Loses Investment Pro to Arlington’s Retirement System

Susie Ardeshir of the University of California will replace Daniel Zito, becoming the first female CIO for ACERS.

The University of California’s investments director is heading to Arlington, Virginia to take on the role of executive director and chief investment officer for the county’s retirement system.  

Susie Ardeshir will join the $3 billion Arlington County Employees’ Retirement System to lead its investment office in July. Arlington County is one of the few pensions in the country that is 100 percent funded, meaning it has enough money to meet its pension promises. 

Ardeshir is succeeding Daniel Zito, who has been Arlington’s CIO for the past 13 years and is now retiring.

Ardeshir Will Become Arlington’s First Female CIO

Come July, the Arlington County retirement system will have a woman in the CIO seat for the first time, a move that will be closely watched by allocators and asset managers that are increasingly prioritizing diversity and inclusion both in their leadership and employee ranks.  

“Her background speaks volumes to her ability to do the job,” said Jimmie Barrett, chairperson for the board’s selection committee and uniform trustee. “She has an excellent skill set and analytical abilities.” According to Barrett, Zito is stepping down around the middle of May. The board is putting a plan in place to take care of the gap between then and when Ardeshir formally joins. 

“She's got the whole package,” Barrett added. “She's able to communicate effectively and to work very well with the team we already have in place.”

The news comes just over six months after UC Regents’ head of investment strategy Samuel Kunz left for a job at wealth management firm Core Financial Partners, Institutional Investor reported in October 2020. A spokesperson for UC Board of Regents declined to comment on the news and its search for a replacement.  

Before joining UC Regents, Ardeshir was a senior associate at consulting firm Mercer, according to ACERS.   

“I am honored to join ACERS and do the best possible for the County and its employees to further the objectives and achievements of Arlington County,” Ardeshir said.  

For the year ending September 30, 2020, ACERS reported a net return of 12.9 percent, according to minutes from the retirement system’s December meeting. For the five-year period, the net return was 9.5 percent, and for the 10-year period, it was 8.5 percent, the minutes showed. When looking at the Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service (TUCS), a common benchmark for public plans, ACERS’ performance was in the 1st, 7th and 23rd percentile on a one-, five- and ten-year basis, respectively.

Arlington Shifts To Underperforming Sectors Like Value 

In December, the board of trustees also voted to reallocate some equity assets, moving from certain growth funds into small-cap and value equity investments. The shift involved selling off $60 million from the Vanguard Dividend Growth fund, $40 million from both T. Rowe Price Global Growth Equity and Baillie Gifford Long Term Global Growth, and $40 million from the Vanguard S&P 500 index fund, according to the minutes.  

The retirement system then reallocated that capital to three new funds: $70 million to NTGI Value Index, $55 million to either Vanguard’s or BlackRock’s S&P small-cap 600 index, and $55 million to Kiltearn Global Equity, the minutes showed.  

“I hope that we continue our excellent track record of being 100 percent funded,” Barrett said. “That's a rare thing that you see in a defined benefits arena. We definitely anticipate that she will continue that track record.” 

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