TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Ash Williams Jr., executive director of the Florida State Board of Administration, is leaving to become executive vice president for operations and administration at Schroder Wertheim Investment Services Inc., New York.
Mr. Williams' departure - after more than four years at the helm of the $68 billion board - is not expected to lead to near-term changes.
Barbara L. Jarriel, chief of fixed income, will be acting executive director until a permanent replacement is named. She said she will provide continuity until a replacement can be found, a sometimes lengthy process.
Mr. Williams said the board's team approach, which he implemented, should ease any disruption from his departure.
Changes already taking place at the fund, such as the upgrading of the board's risk management processes, should not be affected, Ms. Jarriel said.
Mr. Ash's corporate governance duties will be assumed by Jack Madden, chief of administration, with Jason Montgomery, supervisor of corporate affairs. However, the board also is considering moving corporate governance under the supervision of William O. Bell, chief of policy administration, Ms. Jarriel said.
Mr. Ash was elected chairman of the executive committee of the Council of Institutional Investors in April. His replacement will be chosen at the next executive committee meeting in October, said Anne Hansen, deputy director of the CII, Washington.
Ms. Hansen said the loss of Mr. Williams as an activist and spokesman will not slow the corporate governance efforts of the CII or the Florida board.
Ms. Jarriel's duties as chief of fixed income will be assumed by senior portfolio managers Tim Parker and Lynn Thompson until a permanent replacement for Mr. Williams is found.
A decision as to how Mr. Williams will be replaced is likely to be made June 13, at the next board meeting. Florida's three trustees are Gov. Lawton Chiles, Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson and Comptroller Robert Milligan.
Karen Pankowski, a spokeswoman for Gov. Chiles, lauded Mr. Williams, calling him a "great manager."
Meanwhile, the Florida board is likely to continue with plans in the works before Mr. Williams announced his departure.
For example, trustees will discuss on June 13 the board's budget for the next fiscal year, which includes a new position of chief of international equities, Ms. Jarriel said. She said the new chief would oversee the fully funded 8% international equities allocation in the $52 billion retirement system managed by the board. The board also manages assets for various state funds, including a lottery fund, a hurricane disaster fund and a local government surplus fund.
The board also will continue to consider adding a high-yield bond allocation. Consultant Ennis, Knupp & Associates, Chicago, is studying the board's findings that high-yield bonds could be added to the portfolio without significantly increasing risk, Ms. Jarriel said.
The board's allocation to private equity should continue to increase. Florida's target is 5% to 10% of its total equity allocation; it now stands at about 3%, Ms. Jarriel said.
Looking back at his tenure at Florida, Mr. Williams said a few accomplishments stand out - including the board's investment performance, the globalization of its investments and the establishment of Florida's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, a reinsurance fund.
"We feel... both fortunate and proud as much for what didn't happen as what did," Mr. Williams said, referring to some of the investment blowups that occurred among some other large institutional investors.
Mr. Williams was named executive director while working as deputy comptroller for the state of Florida; he succeeded Cliff Hinkle.