CalPERS names new CIO, undergoes makeover

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) named Russell Read as CIO of the $208 billion pension fund. Read succeeds Mark Anson, who departed more than six months ago to join London-based institutional fund manager Hermes Pensions Management.

Read was scheduled to assume the post on June 1.

At CalPERS, Read will manage the pension fund’s entire portfolio, which includes equities, fixed income, real estate and alternative assets.

Read’s experience has largely been focused on the public markets, with little in the way of direct private equity exposure. He had previously served as the deputy chief investment officer for Deutsche Asset Management. Before that, he was at Zurich Scudder Investments, where he had managed the global quantitative investments and research at the firm. Read also held senior positions at OppenheimerFunds, Prudential Insurance, First Chicago, and other institutions. At Oppenheimer, Read had at one time been Anson’s superior, according to reports.

Brad Pacheco, a CalPERS spokesman, said that even though Read does not have a significant background in private equity, that shouldn’t lead to assumptions about CalPERS’ portfolio asset allocation.

The pension fund’s Alternative Investment Management Program, headed by Leon Shahinian, currently makes up slightly more than 5% of the pension’s $208 billion in assets under management. Shahinian was appointed to the role of senior investment officer by Anson in 2004.

“Leon Shahinian runs the private equity portfolio, and I don’t see any immediate or even future changes in the strategic plan that has been set forth,” Pacheco said.

The appointment of a CIO comes as CalPERS undergoes a makeover in its approach to private equity. At the end of March, CalPERS issued two mandates seeking third-party assistance in simplifying its rambling portfolio.

The pension fund issued one RFI requesting bids to develop a “customized fund-of-funds” that will give CalPERS access to distinct market segments such as mid-market, venture and global managers.

The second mandate that CalPERS issued was an open call for “one or more third parties” to take over certain partnerships in its portfolio. It concluded that the “number of general partner relationships … needed to be reduced to a more manageable number.”