San Diego Pension Board Votes to Move CIO In-House; Approves Other Governance Changes

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The San Diego County Employees Retirement Association formally voted on Friday to begin searching for an in-house chief investment officer to replace Salient Partners, the firm currently serving as the fund’s outsourced CIO.

The board also made several changes in governance structure. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Near the end of a two-day board retreat this week, trustees voted 8-1 to return to an in-house chief investment officer rather than rely on an outsourced portfolio strategist.

Trustee David Myers was sole opponent to the reversal.

The board is likely to start the recruiting process for a CIO as soon as next month.

Pension officials also reversed course on their unusual governance structure, a model that had both CEO Brian White and Salient principal Lee Partridge reporting to the board.

Under the new organizational chart, the in-house chief investment officer will report to the CEO, who in turn will report to the board.

Consultants invited to the two-day retreat told trustees that retaining the dual-reporting model was not among the best practices for public pension systems.

One area of concern for trustees: could the pension fund offer a high enough salary to attract a talented CIO? More from ai-cio.com:

Board members aired their views on Friday about how much the county would be willing to pay. The matter concerned Dick Vortmann, who said he did not want SDCERA to end up with “the best of the rest” if the fund was not allowed sufficient budget to hire someone with the requisite skillset to manage investments.

Jacob said the annual salary would be in the $200,000 to $300,000 a year range. She referenced the $4.5 million that was agreed for the four year contract with Salient and said the county “would probably baulk at that.”

[…]

Board Chairman “Skip” Murphy voted with the motion, but said if the county did not agree to a pay package that would attract the right candidate, he was “in a world of hurt”.

Read more coverage of the decision here and here.

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