Even though Roz Hewsenian has announced her retirement plans, she’s not done yet.
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust CIO is stepping down in December 2023 after 13 years at the helm, making way for Joshua Fenton, director of investments, to take over on January 1, 2024.
“Serena Williams put it best when she said she’d be evolving away from tennis,” Hewsenian said Thursday via Zoom. “I don’t view it as retiring from Helmsley.”
Instead, she’s pivoting to board positions — she’ll serve on Helmsley’s investment committee, in addition to her work on a corporate board. And she’s considering more committee roles.
In the boardroom, Hewsenian hopes to advise on strong management and leadership, a hallmark of her years as an allocator. “One of the things that I have really come to enjoy is the nuts and bolts of management,” Hewsenian said. “I’ve been the victim of really bad management throughout various parts of my career. I always swore I was not going to be that boss.”
Hewsenian hopes that she has been a good representative of the asset allocator community over the years. “It’s a great industry and it’s often maligned in the press,” she said. “I tried to be a good steward for the industry.”
Hewsenian has managed investments through several investment cycles. The most recent, which has been marked by rising inflation and interest rates, has tested the Helmsley Trust’s strategy of focusing on tiers of liquidity, rather than asset classes.
“We have a strategy that works in terms of managing through cycles,” Hewsenian said. “What changes is the cause of the volatility. Right now, that’s inflation. The best hedge [against] inflation is equities. We have an equity-focused program. We’ll be able to survive the inflation we’re facing.”
The Helmsley Trust began to take investment profits in early 2021, keeping a cash reserve on the sidelines as the market entered a period of volatility. Now, as many asset owners face the denominator effect — that is, they’ve reached allocation capacity and need to sell off some investments — the Helmsley Trust is able to deploy more capital.
“There’s a big difference between taking profits and setting them aside and market timing,” Hewsenian said. Market timing is trying to move in advance of what is happening.”
Beyond setting up the Helmsley Trust for success, Hewsenian hopes that her legacy will be her honesty and ethics.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is that I’ve never compromised my integrity, even though there were many times to do that,” she said. “It’s often said that one definition of success is to leave the world better than you found it. That's what I’m hoping I did in the investment industry.”