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Women in finance: Rukaiyah Adams

12 / 20 / 2017
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

Rukaiyah Adams, chief investment officer at Portland’s Meyer Memorial Trust - doing good and investing well

The $90 billion dollar Oregon Pension ranks among the top fifteen in the US, but how many in the industry know the current board chair, Ms. Rukaiyah Adams?

Ms. Adams was born in Berkeley, CA, grew up in diverse, northeast Portland, and returned to her home city after a stellar legal and investment career in California and New York.

She splits her professional duties between the $750 million AUM Meyer Memorial Trust, where she is chief investment officer and the $90 billion Orego​n Investm​​ent Council, where she is board chairperson.

Present day Portland is a little easier to reach than it was when President Thomas Jefferson sent Captain Lewis, Second Lieutenant Clark, and the ‘Corps of Discovery” west to explore the vast uncharted American territories.

Still, Portland is not Wall Street and, at the west end of the Oregon Trail, just far enough off the beaten track to feel a bit isolated. 

Yet, the state is home to the Oregon Investment Council, one of the nation’s largest pension funds, several well-run university endowments, three first-rate investment consulting firms, and the Meyer Memorial Trust, established with a bequest from Mr. Fred G. Meyer, a twentieth century supermarket magnate.

When Mr. Meyer died in 1978 at the age of 92, he left two million shares of stock to the newly formed foundation.  And thanks to a buy-out deal in the early days of private equity, the value of the trust’s holdings soared.  KKR and the Oregon Investment Council, in one of their first joint buyout forays, purchased the Fred Meyer Co. in 1981, which did wonders for the stock.

Ms. Rukaiyah Adams joined the foundation as investment head about four years ago, after managing a $7bn fixed income and derivatives fund for The Standard, a Portland-based financial services company.

We caught up with Ms. Adams earlier this year and wondered what the investment view looked like from her outpost on the Pacific rim.

Ironically, with only a handful of African-American chief investment officers in the entire US, the progressive northwest has two, Ms. Adams, a Portland native, and Joseph Boateng, from Ghana originally, and the long-serving investment head of Casey Family Programs in Seattle, the largest non-government provider of foster care in the country. 

We wanted to know what drew her to the asset management industry, her views on investing, and what advice she might have to offer to encourage more women and minorities to get into the business.



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Joseph Boateng: Investing for Children in Need

11 / 09 / 2020
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

Our November letter looks at one of the country’s biggest and most effective operating foundations – the $2.5 billion AUM Casey Family Programs (CFP) in Seattle – and Joseph Boateng, the man who manages the money.

An “operating” foundation uses most of its resources to run its own, internally-managed charitable programs. Among the 86,000 foundations in the U.S. totaling $715 billion in assets, almost all are grant-makers. Only 5 percent run their own charities as CFP does. This has implications, as we shall see, for their investment program.

In 1907, 19-year-old Jim Casey and his 18-year-old pal Claude Ryan between them had one bicycle and $100 borrowed from a friend. They set up the American Messenger Company, operating out of a hotel basement in Seattle. The automobile was still a novelty and aviation barely existed. His brother George and a few friends worked as messengers.

The tiny bike-messenger company grew into mighty UPS, with an enterprise value of over $100 billion and which now moves its packages on its own aerial fleet (UPS Airlines), flying hundreds of giant jet freighters all over the globe. Not to mention 96,000 trucks, vans, tractors and even motorcycles. Alas, no bikes.  

When Mr. Casey died in 1983 he’d turned his borrowed $100 into a personal fortune of $100 million. Most of that went into the CFP operating foundation and the related grant maker Annie E. Casey Foundation. The former is still sited in Seattle, while the latter – also focused on child welfare – is in Baltimore.

For any of our readers who lives have been touched by foster care, you know Casey. 

President and CEO William C. Bell, Ph.D., a former New York City commissioner for Child Services, joined CFP in 2004 and became CEO in 2006. A year later the Casey Board recruited Joseph Boateng to work with Dr. Bell as the foundation’s first and only CIO, bringing the investment portfolio inhouse. It had been previously managed externally by Russell Investments.

CFP’s charities, despite their altruistic aims, have budgets, expenses, and many commitments to meet, like any big business. But revenue comes through a single pipe: investment returns on Jim Casey’s original endowment.

For CFP, any unexpected shortfall in investment revenue means either a cut in programs for kids, or an invasion of the corpus. Both are unacceptable.

For fourteen years, Mr. Boateng has managed to produce that steady income while walking an investment tightrope.

Kim Lew, the new CIO of Columbia University, previously managed investments at the Carnegie Corporation, another major private foundation. As she told us in our recent interview:

A private foundation is not a university endowment. We don’t have rich alumni we can go to for help if we take an unexpected haircut.  We have constraints which demand close attention to liquidity. That means we can’t lay out sixty to seventy percent of the portfolio in private equity, venture capital, timber, and other assets which might take years to sell.

Joseph Boateng, an American Success Story

Mr. Boateng was born in the west African republic of Ghana, son of a prominent local leader. 

There were early signs of his business acumen. During his student leader days at the University of Ghana, Joseph launched a number of innovative programs for small business owners including education sessions and seminars on accounting, business development, and cash management.

AIESEC International even gave him an award for the most Innovative Program of the Year Award at their Annual International Congress in Innsbruck Austria in 1987.



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Kim Lew, Columbia Endowment’s next CEO, Shattering the Glass Ceiling

09 / 08 / 2020
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

African-American investment professionals. . . better late than never!

Last week Columbia University announced that Ms. Kim Y. Lew, chief investment officer and thirteen-year veteran of the Carnegie Corporation, will join Columbia’s $10.9 billion Investment Management Company as CEO on November 2nd.

She won’t have far to move. Her new office is located about eight blocks south and three blocks east of her present location in mid-town Manhattan.

This hire is a big deal and the search committee -- Columbia University’s board of directors, President Lee C. Bollinger, and EVP of finance Anne Sullivan -- shattered several glass ceilings when they welcomed Ms. Lew on board.

Gender is a formidable barrier for females in finance. On our latest list of the top one hundred endowment chief investment officers pre-Ms. Lew, there are only sixteen women.

[This is pre-Kim Lew and Brooke Jones, both moves announced last week.  Ms. Jones was Kim Lew’s investment director and will move to Bryn Mawr College as CIO next month. Dekia Scott, 19 years at Southern Company, was promoted to CIO in June]

Fortunately, Columbia’s search committee was more interested in talent and ability than race, gender, or religion when they selected Ms. Lew.

[Our full interview with Ms. Lew is just below]

We see a lot of boilerplate in the nonprofit world about how “we don’t discriminate.”

But, truth be told, if you are a woman, or more pointedly, an African-American woman in asset management, you face gale-force headwinds as you scale the institutional precipice.

How bad is it?

For over thirty years we have followed the careers of several thousand investment heads at Wall Street investment and money center banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, and nonprofits.

Within our global database we have about six-hundred-fifty chief investment officers at endowments, foundations, hospitals, public pensions, associations, and charities. . . yet we can find only fifteen African-American CIOs among them, a minuscule two percent, of which, with the recent promotions of Ms. Jones, and Scott, seven are female.

The dismal reality is that an African-American woman working in institutional investment management has a better chance of storming her way across the Korean DMZ than becoming a chief investment officer at a major American endowment or foundation.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICERS

AT US TAX-EXEMPT INSTITUTIONS

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ENDOWMENTS

Kim Y. Lew, CEO (Oct 2020), Columbia U Investment Mgmt. Co.

Brooke Jones, CIO (Oct 2020), Bryn Mawr College

Charmel Maynard, CIO/Treasurer, U of Miami, FL

Frank Bello, CIO Howard U

Robert "Danny" Flanigan Jr., CIO/Treasurer, Spelman College

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FOUNDATIONS

Joseph Boateng, CIO, Casey Family Programs

Rukaiyah Adams, CIO, Meyer Memorial Trust

Nickol Hackett, CIO, Joyce Foundation

Bola Olusanya, CIO, The Nature Conservancy

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CORPORATE PENSIONS

Dekia M. Scott, CIO, Southern Company

Bryan Lewis, CIO, US Steel

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PUBLIC PENSIONS

Mansco Perry III, ExecDir/CIO, MN State Board of Investments

Angela Miller-May, CIO, Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund

Cheryl Alston, CIO, Employees Retirement Fund City of Dallas

Alex Done, CIO, Bureau of Asset Management, NYC retirement system

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Source: Charles Skorina & Company

[Our apologies if we have missed anyone. Please email me if you’re not on the list]

Kelli Washington, managing director of investments at the Cleveland Clinic, wrote an excellent op-ed piece for ai-CIO magazine about what it’s like to be an African-American woman in finance.

And Vicki Fuller, former CIO at the New York Commons, was kind enough to share her views on being female and African-American on Wall Street and at the Commons in our interview two years ago.

We should mention that Columbia is not the only eminent New York institution to give women and minorities a fair shot.

The honorable Thomas P. DiNapoli, state comptroller, has led the charge for years, promoting Raudline Etienne, then Vicki Fuller, and now Anastasia Titarchuk to the top investment position at the $207bn New York Commons.

But, as we see from the data, these are rare exceptions.

When I interview women in the investment industry and ask how they first became interested in investment finance, it’s almost always because early on they had a role model.

Someone in the family or a family friend, someone they met in high school or college who worked in finance and took the time to explain what they did and why they liked the job.

Let’s hope the entire investment community will follow Columbia’s example and hire, develop, and promote more role models like the intrepid band of women (and men) cited in this piece.

Ms. Kim Y. Lew, a Bronx Story



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CA vs NY: Performance and pay at the Mega-pensions

07 / 31 / 2018
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

Vicki Fuller, chief investment officer at the country’s third-biggest public pension -- New York State’s Common Retirement Fund – has announced her retirement by the end of this summer of 2018.

We just had a chance to chat with her about her life and times.  But first, here are a couple of mini-charts to put everything in perspective.

As of September 2017, there were only three U.S. pensions with over $200 billion in assets – two in California, and one in New York.  Here’s how Ms. Fuller’s fund stacks up against the Californians.



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