San Diego Pension Close to Firing Outsourced CIO, Bringing Investment Management In-House

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The San Diego County Employees Retirement Association (SDCERA) is on the verge of firing its controversial outsourced CIO, Lee Partridge of Salient Partners.

Board members held a mock vote on the issue, and the firing was “approved” 7-0.

If Salient Partners is indeed fired, the SDCERA would move its investment management in-house.

More on the situation from the Union-Tribune:

The county retirement board has made an informal decision to end its five-year experiment with a Texas portfolio strategist and return oversight of the $10 billion pension fund to an in-house expert.

The vote came late Thursday toward the close of another marathon meeting of the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association board, which has been racked with discord in recent months over its leverage-heavy investment policy.

An hour into a late-afternoon discussion on governance models, Trustee Dick Vortmann suggested their time might be better spent if they knew whether the board majority still supported using an outsourced chief investment officer.

“Can we take a straw poll right now?” he asked. “For Christ’s sake, if it isn’t a close debate, why are we debating?”

Minutes later, all seven trustees in attendance raised their hand to show they are ready to hire an internal investment officer to manage the fund — a function that has been served by Salient Partners of Houston.

The 7-0 vote isn’t as clear cut as it sounds.

The vote wasn’t official – and it didn’t include all the trustees. Two trustees had left the meeting before the vote was held. At least one of those trustees, David Myers, is likely to vote to retain Salient Partners. From the Union-Tribune:

The nonbinding vote excluded board members David Myers, who was absent, and Mark Oemcke, who left the meeting earlier in the day. Myers has been a staunch supporter of Salient and its main representative in San Diego, Lee Partridge. Oemcke has not.

Three of the seven board members to vote — Vortmann, Kristina Maxwell and E.F. “Skip” Murphy — said they were raising “half a hand” to reflect concern over finding the right candidate for the job.

“It’s qualified on the assumption that we can find the requisite skills to match our desired level of sophistication on our investment philosophy,” Vortmann said.

No one from Salient was at the meeting.

While not yet formalized, the decision to abandon the outsourced CIO model prompted trustees to begin the process of recruiting an in-house investment expert.

They plan to hire an executive search firm in two weeks, when the board convenes a special two-day retreat. Installing a chief investment officer is expected to take between four and six months.

SDCERA pays Salient $10 million a year to perform CIO duties.

A consultant told the SDCERA board that they could likely hire a new, qualified CIO for less than $250,000.

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2 Responses to “San Diego Pension Close to Firing Outsourced CIO, Bringing Investment Management In-House”

  1. […] Diego City Employees Retirement System is on the cusp of firing its controversial outsourced chief investment officer and bringing more investment management […]

  2. […] of the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association (SDCERA) voted in November to fire the firm acting as its outsourced CIO, Salient Partners, and hire an in-house […]

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