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PSERS Executive Director, CIO Announce Plans to Retire

The fund’s board attempted but failed to oust the two earlier in 2021. Now they’re leaving on their own terms.

Both the chief investment officer and executive director at the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System have announced their plans to retire in 2022.  

On Thursday morning, the Wall Street Journal initially reported that Jim Grossman, PSERS’s longtime CIO, would retire. His attorney, Matt Haverstick, confirmed the news to Institutional Investor. Soon after this news broke, the PSERS board revealed at a Thursday meeting that executive director Glen Grell would also retire.  

The two were targeted in June by a group of board members, who said that they had lost confidence in the leadership and wanted Verus Investments — which had already been hired as an emergency consultant — to serve as the fund’s temporary outsourced CIO. 

The group, which included state treasurer Stacy Garrity, former state treasurer Joe Torsella, acting education secretary Noe Ortega, secretary of banking and securities Richard Vague, state senator Kate Muth, and CEO of the school board association Nathan Mains, signed a letter calling for vote of no confidence, which ultimately failed.  

PSERS has spent much of the year dealing with internal and federal investigations. Some of the fund’s issues stemmed from an error in the reporting of investment performance numbers that were used in its December 2020 certification, according to a statement previously published by PSERS.  

Grossman’s attorney Haverstick said by phone that his decision to step down had nothing to do with these ongoing issues. “Jim will reach 25 years of service early next year,” he said. “It seems like an opportune time for him to move on. I’d add, too, that Jim hasn’t engaged in any kind of wrongdoing, and there’s been no suggestion or finding to suggest that there is any kind of wrongdoing.” 

Grossman, who left KPMG in 1997 to take a compliance and risk manager position at PSERS, has spent most of his career at the fund. He worked his way up to become managing director of external public markets, risk, and compliance, then moved up to the deputy CIO position in 2011, where he served as second-in-command to Alan Van Noord, the fund’s investment chief at the time. In 2012, Grossman was named one of Institutional Investor’s Hedge Fund Rising Stars, and a year later, he succeeded Van Noord as the organization’s CIO. 

In fiscal year 2021, under Grossman’s leadership, the fund returned about 24.6 percent net of fees. The fund had $72.5 billion in assets under management as of June 30, 2021. The news also comes as the board considers a plan to make changes to the fund’s asset allocation in December. These changes could include adding more public equities to the portfolio and gradually ending PSERS’s absolute return allocation.     

Grossman will transition to the position of senior advisor effective December 9, 2022, and will assist in the transition to a new chief investment officer until May 1, 2022, when his retirement will take effect. Grell, meanwhile, will retire on February 28, 2022, and will step into a senior advisory role on January 1, according to a resolution approved at Thursday’s board meeting. PSERS has, effective immediately, commenced a search for their replacements. 

According to Haverstick, Grossman is “very open” to working in other roles following his retirement. “His contributions at PSERS have been significant,” Haverstick said. “He’s grown the fund during his tenure by tens of billions. He’s very interested in seeing what the private sector could offer.” 

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