Greta E. Marshall, CalPERS' first chief investment officer, is remembered by those who worked with her as an astute asset allocator, an adventurerous traveler and, at times, a whimsical personality.
Ms. Marshall, 63, died June 3 at Washoe Medical Center in Reno, Nev., after a battle with cancer. She resided in nearby Incline Village.
Despite her illness, she maintained her near-irrepressible spirit almost to the end. According to her niece, Pamela Emmerich, she went skiing in British Columbia only six weeks before she died.
"Greta never let anything stop her," said Kim Ratcliffe, an equity analyst at Peak Financial Management Inc., Wellesley, Mass., who worked with Ms. Marshall twice before.
Ms. Marshall worked in nearly every type of organization involved in institutional investment management, starting in 1960 as a Wall Street analyst.
From there, she became director-investments of Deere & Co., Moline, Ill., overseeing the corporation's pension fund investments for 10 years. When she left in 1984, the plan had $1.5 billion in assets, some $1 billion of which was run in-house. From Deere, she was hired by BayBanks of Boston as president of its new BayBanks Investment Management Co. unit.
From BayBank, she was hired in 1985 as CIO of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, after the state separated it from the California State Teachers' Retirement System. CalPERS then had $25 billion in assets, all run internally.
During Ms. Marshall's tenure, CalPERS hired its first discretionary money managers, including in the first group such innovative firms as Dimensional Fund Advisors Inc. and the Gary P. Brinson-led First Chicago Investment Advisors. She was instrumental in CalPERS' making its first international investments, as well as developing an equity trading system to minimize the potentially costly market impact the big fund could have.
In 1988, she left CalPERS after declining to renew her contract. She formed her own firm, GEM Advisors Inc., which included The Marshall Plan LP and GEM Trading Services LP.
The Marshall Plan, her main investment advisory firm, never grew much beyond $70 million in assets under management, according to published data. But its clients included the Illinois State Board of Investments, which hired it to run $20 million in equities.
According to Ms. Ratcliffe, who was director of research, the Marshall Plan used models to segment equities into large value, large growth, small value and small growth. Ms. Marshall would shift assets completely into whichever segment was most in favor as determined by the models, unless directed by clients to split their funds among other segments.
Ms. Marshall was an astute investor. While at CalPERS, she shifted some $3 billion out of equities just before the October 1987 market crash and quickly bought back stocks afterward.
"She had a unique sense of marketing timing, of when to go from one model to another," said Kenneth L. Holmes, director of consultant Peirce Park Group, Wilmington, Del., who knew Ms. Marshall through the institutional investment community.
Ms. Marshall closed her firms sometime after 1999, as she "needed to spend more time with her health," said Ms. Ratcliffe.
The ERA IRA
Ms. Marshall promoted the advancement of women in investing. In 1982, she worked with a small group to promote an idea they called an ERA IRA, an individual retirement account promoted under the banner of the equal rights amendment for women. The group tried to enlist the support of the National Organization for Women, even suggesting paying a fee in return for its endorsement. The idea never got off the drawing board, recalled Mr. Holmes, who worked with her on the project.
"If you could call a woman a great guy, she was a great guy," he said.
She was well known and a friend of many people in the money management community. Wayne H. Wagner, president of Plexus Group, Los Angeles, has been a member for 15 years of the ski group she helped form in the 1980s, which comprised Americans and Canadians of various professions. But he said he didn't have the daring for her last trip, which involved Sno-Cat skiing, in which the skiers are transported off trails by Caterpillar-like tractors. She also used to helicopter ski, he said, where skiers are flown to remote mountain locations.
"She liked extreme sports," Mr. Wagner said,
"She loved to do adventurous things, " added Mr. Holmes.
"Her attitude was work hard, play hard," added Ms. Ratcliffe.
And she was daring on land and sea and in the air.
She ran in marathons, including the Boston and New York marathons, and was very competitive in playing tennis with friends. In 1986, she trekked in the Himalayas in Nepal with Judy Mares, then assistant treasurer of General Mills Inc., and Marci Avrin, then a pension consultant. She scuba dived, windsurfed and sky dived.
Ms. Marshall could be whimsical. In 1993, she appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman," picked out of the audience to play "stump the band," and that she did. She suggested to Mr. Letterman that the band try to play "Ukelele Lady." When the band didn't know the tune or lyrics, Ms. Marshall won a $200 gift certificate.
Most recently, Ms. Marshall had been an adviser to the Association for Investment Management and Research, Charlottesville, Va., on its education program and with the University of Louisville on its MBA program. She got her undergraduate and MBA degrees from the school.
Aside from her niece, Ms. Marshall is survived by a son, Thomas L. Marshall; a brother, John E. Emmerich; and a nephew, Stephen Emmerich.
No funeral services are planned. A memorial service is being planned for sometime in July. Her family suggest donations may be sent to Fund for Greta Marshall Memorial, College of Business and Public Administration, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292; or made in her name to PetNetwork, 401 Village Blvd., Incline Village, NV 89451.