This content is from: Corner Office
After Nearly 40 Years, Sandy Urie Retires From Cambridge Associates
“I’m proud frankly of the number of women who serve in leadership positions. I hired many of them,” says the chairman emeritus.
After nearly 40 years with Cambridge Associates, Chairman Emeritus Sandra Urie is stepping down. Again.
In 2016, after receiving Institutional Investor’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award, Urie had planned to retire. “One of the most important things the CEO does is determine who comes next,” she said. “I said we really need to focus on this. This should be planned and thoughtful.”
So Cambridge tapped now-CEO David Druley. But Druley, who was president and head of global investments at the time, suggested she stay on in some kind of new role so the firm could leverage her expertise. She agreed — with conditions.
“I wanted to dive deeply into sustainability, impact, and diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Urie said. “If I were able to focus on that, then that would be appealing to me as a capstone of my time at Cambridge.”
Urie, who joined Cambridge in 1985 after earning a master’s degree from Yale School of Management, worked her way up in the firm, starting as an investment consultant and later serving as chief operating officer, then president and chief executive officer.
In 2016, Urie stepped into the chairman emeritus role, aiding clients with governance, mission alignment, and mission implementation. She also worked with Cambridge’s sustainable and impact investing team to identify diverse and ESG-focused managers.
Urie — and Cambridge itself — worked to solve issues facing women in the workplace much earlier. Early in her career, Urie, like many investment consultants, had a busy travel schedule. At one point, she was on the road four days a week. The schedule was taxing, particularly for Urie, who was a single mother. So she went to her boss to ask for help. The firm moved Urie into a management and operations role that required less travel and allowed her to work part-time, even promoting her to managing director while she worked reduced hours.
“What might have ended at five years has ended up at 38 years with so many opportunities over the course of those decades,” she said. “It was pragmatic. You want the best talent, look everywhere for it, and then create a community and environment that enables people to be successful.”
Urie said she took that lesson to heart as she rose through the ranks at Cambridge, becoming COO in 1992, then CEO and president in 2001.
“Once you make that commitment to have a very diverse talent pool, you need to recognize that there may be differences in what people need to be successful,” she said. “It’s not just attracting talent. It’s about training, professional development, and retention.”
For Urie, a point of pride was keeping these values embedded in Cambridge’s work, even as the firm grew globally. “I’m proud frankly of the number of women who serve in leadership positions,” she added. “I hired many of them. I’m very proud of that.”
Urie is also a firm believer in the service work that comes alongside working on sustainability and diversity. She shared that her leadership philosophy was always focused on this. “I think people who lead are in service to the organization and their job is to enable people to do their best work.”
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Urie and her team at Cambridge made the decision to waive fees for clients affected by the storm. “It falls in the category of ‘Do the right thing,’” she said. “Step back, put yourself in their shoes, and think ‘how can we be helpful?’”
Urie has chosen to serve organizations outside of Cambridge by sitting on numerous boards — work that she will continue through her retirement.
She was a member and vice-chair of the Investors’ Committee of the U.S. President’s Working Group on Financial Markets from 2007 through 2010. She serves on boards including Stanford Management Company, Social Finance, the Crane Institute of Sustainability, the Plymouth Rock Company, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In retirement, Urie also plans to spend time with her family abroad. She recalled a particularly poignant moment with her daughter, who now works at an art auction house in London.
“When my daughter was in high school, at dinner one night, she said ‘I want a job like yours,’” Urie recalled. She knew her daughter wasn’t drawn to finance. So Urie asked her why. As her daughter told her at the time, “You love what you do, and you want to go to work. That’s the kind of job that I want when I grow up.”