San Francisco Pension Investment Staff Recommends Foray Into Hedge Funds

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The investment staff of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System (SFERS) has recommended to the board that the system allocate up to 10 percent of its assets in hedge funds.

SFERS has been waffling for a year over whether or not to put money into hedge funds, and what the allocation should be.

From Bloomberg, via FinAlternatives:

The San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System staff is recommending its board consider investing 10 percent of assets in hedge funds.


The staff said it also could support a 5 percent hedge-fund allocation for the $20 billion city pension, according to a memo sent to the board from William Coaker, the chief investment officer. The board is scheduled to consider the recommendation at a Feb. 11 meeting in San Francisco.

“Many of the objections we have heard about hedge funds are at best an incomplete picture,” Coaker’s memo said. “Hedge funds have less than half the volatility of the equity market. Transparency is improving in the hedge-fund industry as a whole.”

The San Francisco pension board in December postponed a decision on adding hedge funds to its investment mix and asked staff for a more detailed analysis ahead of this month’s meeting. The fund isn’t currently invested in hedge funds, which are loosely regulated investment pools that are generally open only to high-net-worth and institutional investors.

The San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System manages $20 billion in assets.


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San Francisco Pension Not Expected to Approve Hedge Fund Proposal, But Alternate Plan Could Pass

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Trustees of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System will vote sometime in the next few weeks on a proposal to invest up to 15 percent of assets – or $3 billion – in hedge funds.

The vote has been proposed and tabled nearly half a dozen times since May.

According to reporting by Pensions & Investments, the proposal isn’t expected to pass a vote – although a toned-down version, where hedge fund investments are capped at 5 percent of assets, has a better chance at passing.

From Pensions & Investments:

The board of the San Francisco City & County Employees’ Retirement System is expected to reject Chief Investment Officer William Coaker’s plan for a 15% allocation to hedge funds at a meeting in the next several weeks and instead limit hedge funds to no more than 5% of the portfolio, sources say.

The board had been scheduled to vote on the hedge fund allocation at a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

Board President Victor Makras said in an interview that a new special meeting will be held in the next few weeks. He said he will schedule the meeting as soon as he can poll members for a suitable date.

He said the Nov. 5 meeting was canceled because several board members were traveling out of the country.

The board is also expected, as part of the hedge fund vote, to bar or severely limit the use of leverage by hedge fund managers, a common tactic used by such mangers to increase returns.

Mr. Coaker’s plan would shift assets from fixed income and equities to create the new hedge fund allocation.

If the “15 percent” plan passes, the following allocation changes would occur elsewhere in the fund’s portfolio, according to SFGate:

U.S. and foreign stocks would drop to 35 percent from 47 percent of assets. Bonds and other fixed-income would fall to 15 percent from 25 percent. Real estate would rise to 17 percent from 12 percent. Private equity would rise to 18 percent from 16 percent. And hedge funds would go to 15 percent from zero.

The San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System currently does not invest in hedge funds. It manages $20 billion in assets.