The Most Daring CIOs
As this issue of CIO will be distributed during our eighth annual awards gala, many of you will be holding it hot off the press at the New York Public Library. You’ll be congratulating your friends and enjoying post-event cocktails on one of our most
festive nights of the year. Tonight, and throughout this issue, we partake in that wonderfully human experience of learning from other innovators. It’s a beautiful thing that such
learning actually stimulates our brains to release the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin.
Learning from each other has connected us all from the beginning of civilization, from
when our very survival depended on being able to anticipate, adapt, and thrive (Ha, I guess,
not much has changed).
When we first started planning this year’s innovation awards, we knew we’d be
searching for the daring. Following 2016, a record year for funding ETFs, many found 2017
a hard year to be innovative. As one CIO put it, “With ETFs gathering so much cash last
year, many boards directed CIOs toward passive investing and just riding the S&P. One
would have to be very courageous to be innovative this year.”
So, we dug deeper into our conversations with CIOs to find out exactly what would
make one innovative in an environment with growing frontier economies, a new president,
unwinding stimulus, and high valuations.
What we found was that many of you have been innovative by diving into first-time
funds, traveling to far-flung emerging markets to investigate opportunities, diving into new
real estate opportunities, and being early to investments such as African equities. Others
have been individualistic and contrarian, but charismatic enough to court top general
partners. Some CIOs revamped their portfolios to be cognizant of climate change, and
embedded ESG standards into the fabric of their organizations. One used his investing
power to hold Big Oil’s feet to the fire and demand more climate-related risk disclosure
from ExxonMobil. Another invested in energy debt. One turned to active management for
the first time. Yet another managed 150 plans through a digital infrastructure to achieve
24%+ returns over the past four years, and another has set up his investment team to snatch
venture capital opportunities..
As our lifetime honoree Ash Williams said, the team building, which is such a huge
part of your jobs, is often the work that seems invisible. Yet without it, results would suffer.
Some of our CIOs have completely revamped their investment teams—one to dig out of a
bottom-quartile hole for a risk-managed approach; another to transform one of the largest
retirement systems in the US to attract talent to one of its most expensive cities.
As you know, there is no way we can actually give you the full details of our honorees’
plans and methods. But use this issue as a guide to root out the innovators you’d like to
learn from. Also observe the lists of finalists on each page. Our choices were very difficult
this year, as each finalist deserved to win in their own right. Take down their names, give
them a holiday call, or catch lunch with them during one of our future events, such as our
CIO Summit in the spring. I’ve never met one who has been unwilling to share. Also take
note of the asset management winners: Their list was hewn by survey and extensive phone
calls to CIOs, who told us who had truly done right by them this year. As always, this CIO
community is all about learning, sharing, and keeping investors informed. It gives us all an
edge over machines, every time. Heck, let’s celebrate what it is to be human.
Wishing you a lovely holiday season. —Christine Giordano, Editor
EDI TORIAL TEAM
SooJin C. Buzelli, svp
EDI TORIAL CON TRIBUTION
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Claire Merchlinsky, Tiffany Pai
CON TRIBUTING ARTISTS
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RESEARCH & SURVEYS
Quinn Keeler, svp,
Michael Garity, vp, Carol Popkins, vp,
Katie Campbell, Ana-Alyse Castelluccio,
Melissa Groccia, Lucille Velander
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Michelle Judkins, michelle.judkins@
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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR