Huang stands guard over Sentry’s alternatives

Since leaving the Oregon State Treasury and joining Sentry Insurance as its director of alternative investments last September, Wei Huang has been a busy man.

Huang took the helm of an alternative assets program that used to be run part-time by Sentry Insurance’s head of public equities investments. In less than a year under Huang’s watch, the program has started to grow thanks to Sentry Insurance’s greater interest in buyout funds.

“The program is the same, in that we re-up with people we’ve invested with in the past, but we used to do only venture capital,” Huang says. “Now we also do buyouts and other sub-strategies.”

Sentry Insurance, the Stevens Point, Wis.-based mutual insurance company, with more than $9 billion of assets under management, takes its alternative investment allocation from its property and casualty piggy bank. The limited partner’s allocation to alternatives is composed of private equity, including venture capital and buyout funds, real estate, hedge funds and emerging market equities. Huang wouldn’t disclose Sentry Insurance’s percentage allocation to each asset class, but he says that Sentry Insurance’s commitments to buyout funds tilt toward U.S.-based mid-market shops.

The largest private equity commitment made since Huang came on board was $50 million to mega-firm Warburg Pincus’ 10th fund, which closed earlier this year with $15 billion in capital commitments. The New York-based firm makes venture capital, growth equity and leveraged buyout investments globally.

Huang chose the commitment to Warburg Pincus mainly based on his previous relationship with the firm during his time at Oregon State Treasury, where he served for over three years as the private equity investment officer working under Jay Fewel. During Huang’s tenure there, the state pension fund raised its private equity target by 2 percentage points to 12%, taking the difference from its U.S. equity allocation. —Nancy Gordon