With the departure of CIO Nicole Musicco at the end of September, CalPERS will once again have to fill the chief investment officer post, a relatively common occurrence at the $463.6 billion pension fund as she becomes the second straight CIO to leave after only 18 months on the job.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Sacramento, again turns to Deputy CIO Dan Bienvenue to serve as interim CIO, having already served more than 18 months in that role after the abrupt departure of former CIO Yu “Ben” Meng in August 2020. This makes Bienvenue the longest-serving CIO since Theodore Eliopoulos, who served as permanent CIO for four years and acting CIO for 15 months before that, leaving CalPERS in 2018.
“We will waste no time in launching a wide-ranging recruitment for a new permanent CIO,” CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost said at the Sept. 20 board meeting. Frost did not provide a timeline or other details about the recruitment process.
CalPERS officials have been focused on ensuring continuity with the incoming interim CIO and have yet to set the details around the CIO recruitment process, spokesman John Myers said.
In bidding farewell during her final appearance before CalPERS’ investment committee as CIO on Sept. 18, Musicco said she appreciated their welcoming “the Canadian with big ideas.”
But she acknowledged that during her 18 months as CIO she did not get universal support from the investment team, which nevertheless delivered on “very ambitious goals.”
“There will always be a small minority that fight change, but the vast majority of this team embraced change from the start,” Musicco said.
She said she is proud and grateful to work for an organization that sees the human side of team members. Musicco said her family needs her back in Toronto, and so she had to make the “unfortunate decision” to step down at the end of the month.
She thanked Frost, to whom she reports, for “leading with compassion.”
“Nicole’s tenure at CalPERS was shorter than she or I would have hoped, but she has helped the organization bridge the gap between its aspirations and its operations, and we are better for it,” Frost said. “Her decision to focus on family took courage, and we will be rooting for her as she returns home to Canada.”
But Musicco’s departure will not leave CalPERS’ investments unattended, Frost said.
“Our leadership team remains in place from the very capable managing investment directors to the organization’s entire executive team,” Frost said. “We are not going to miss a beat when it comes to the work we need to do to fulfill the mission of CalPERS.”
Jim Scheinberg, the managing partner of fiduciary search firm North Pier Search Consulting, Marina Del Rey, Calif., said it will be difficult to find a new chief investment officer who will be the right fit for CalPERS.
“It’s an incredibly high-profile job. Who wants to live under a microscope?” Scheinberg said. But, he added, “to deploy a half-trillion dollars in capital, that’s the GOAT of the investment world.”