Private equity chief to retire from Pennsylvania pension

  • Lauren Lenfest to leave her role on February 5
  • System describes departure as retirement
  • Promoted to sole alternatives head in 2011

Lauren Lenfest, the head of private equity at the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, will leave the pension on February 5, a spokeswoman confirmed.

PA SERS, with about $26.5 billion in total assets, hasn’t yet named Lenfest’s replacement. It’s not clear if the system will conduct a search for a replacement or promote from within. Pam Hile, spokeswoman for PA SERS, said: “as a state agency, we follow the Commonwealth’s hiring procedures.”

It’s not clear why Lenfest is leaving. Hile characterized the departure as Lenfest “retiring from the Commonwealth [of Pennsylvania].”

Lenfest’s age was unavailable. The earliest position listed on Lenfest’s LinkedIn profile was at Digital Equipment Corp, which she joined as a senior director in Treasury Operations in May 1985. She left DEC in 1995 to be a VP of international development at Oracle Corp, LinkedIn said. Six years later, she became executive director of the Tobacco Settlement Investment Board, departing in 2011 to join PA SERS, according to LinkedIn.

Lenfest, whose title is managing director of alternative investments, was promoted to the lead role in 2011 after former chief Bruce Feldman retired. Lenfest was previously co-director of alternative investments.

PA SERS went through some hefty changes during Lenfest’s tenure. The system in 2012 decided to drastically shrink the size of its private equity portfolio to 16 percent of total assets. At the time, the system had built up a private equity portfolio that stood at around 30 percent of the total.

The PE allocation today hovers around 19 percent. The system’s 2016-2017 strategic plan calls for about $750 million in commitments to private equity. That’s an increase from the $500 million annual commitment pace the system has maintained since 2011.

PA SERS also parted ways with its longtime alternatives advisor, Cambridge Associates, which it had worked with for around 20 years. In 2011, the system hired StepStone Group to consult on alternative investments.

Pennsylvania also started a fee review last year to see if “fees are aligned with SERS’ best interests and are reasonable relative to market rates for comparable strategies in each investment asset class,” its strategic plan said.

Action Item: See PA SERS’ strategic plan here:

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock