Even as CalPERS officials were facing the dual challenges of managing investments and remote work during a pandemic, it was moving ahead with hiring a new CIO and expects to name one in the first quarter, a top official said.
CEO Marcie Frost said in an interview earlier this month that the $444.5 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System would like its new CIO to make at least a five-year commitment.
The position was held by Yu "Ben" Meng, who resigned in August during a controversy over his personal investments that were revealed in a statement of economic interest form.
Two interview panels that include three board members each and staff members including Ms. Frost have been interviewing candidates since December. All interviews have been virtual.
Ms. Frost declined to provide the size of the candidate pool. "I would not say the candidate pool is large," she said.
The CEO and board share responsibility for hiring the CIO.
The process consists of two rounds of interviews as well as an opportunity for the full board to meet the final candidate. The anticipated timeline indicated that a finalist would be introduced to the board in January or February.
No further information is available on how many more days of interviews are planned or when the next round will be, said spokeswoman Megan White in an email on Jan. 22.
In the Jan. 14 interview, Ms. Frost said that CalPERS is looking for a candidate who is a strong investor and someone with an established track record who has managed a portfolio of similar magnitude as CalPERS' portfolio. Leadership skills to lead a large investment office and the ability to run a system in the public eye are also desired traits.
The person also needs to be able to work with the board and stakeholders as the "face" of CalPERS, according to requirements.
Focusing on the job of managing the pension fund's investments and overseeing the administrative and investment functions of CalPERS' approximately 400-person investment office in full public view isn't easy, Ms. Frost said.
"Some people are not wired to have their professional decisions questioned. Some people are not wired to take a punch now and then," Ms. Frost said. "Not everyone will agree with the decisions you make. The person needs to take time to debate openly and then move on and do the work without being distracted."
The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated matters.
In talking to candidates, Ms. Frost said some of the candidates are "a little less than thrilled with relocation." Certain candidates are in California but one candidate under consideration said "they have to think about whether they want to relocate at this time," she said.
Once a new CIO is in place, CalPERS will proceed with the ongoing search for the new position of deputy CIO for growth assets. CalPERS launched the search in January for a person to assist the CIO who will "oversee and manage global growth asset class portfolio construction, asset allocation and risk budgeting," according to the original job listing.