San Francisco Finds Its CIO, But Many Public Pension Funds Are Still Looking

By David G. Barry

You can take the San Francisco City & County Employees Retirement System off the lengthy list of public pension funds looking for a chief investment officer.

SFERS accomplished that feat by naming Alison Romano CIO and CEO. Romano, who is currently deputy CIO of the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA), will take the reins of the $35.2 billion San Francisco system on June 13. She replaces Jay Huish, who is retiring as executive director, and William J. Coaker, Jr., who stepped down as CIO last summer. Romano’s appointment comes just a few weeks after Nicole Musicco began her role as the new CIO of the $480 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

But while SFERS and CalPERS have completed their searches, there are at least seven other notable public pension funds seeking CIOs. Here is a look at why they are looking and how they are going about it.


Longtime PERSI CIO Bob Maynard announced last summer that he would retire this September. Maynard has been at the $22.8 billion fund since 1992.
PERSI’s board has hired Korn Ferry to conduct the search with the goal of getting a new CIO on board roughly in July, said Donald Drum, the fund’s executive director.
For the fiscal year ended June 30, PERSI returned net 27.6%. 


Mansco Perry III announced in late 2021 that he will retire this year as executive director and CIO of the $128 billion pension fund, likely after the end of the fiscal year – June 30. SBI’s board voted to form a search committee at its December 1 meeting and to also hire a search firm. Perry has led the SBI since 2013. He previously served as assistant executive director from 1990 to 2008 and then served as CIO of the Maryland State Retirement & Pension System and Macalester College.


Larry Johansen announced earlier this year that he will retire as director of investments of the fund on September 1. Johansen held the role for more than 12 years, during which time assets grew from $4.9 billion on June 30, 2010, to $11.6 billion as of June 30, 2021. Prior to NHRS, Johansen held senior level investment and actuarial positions at the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System.
NHRS has 48,500 active members and 41,000 benefit recipients. For the fiscal year ended June 30, NHRS realized a 29.4% return on investments.
Marty Karlon, director of communications and legislative affairs for NHRS, said recruitment firm EFL Associates has been hired to conduct the search. He said the hope is have someone in the position prior to Johansen’s departure.


The $18 billion pension fund has been without a permanent CIO since Dominic Garcia stepped down in June to become chief pension
 investment strategist for CBRE Global Investors. Kristin Varela, who is PERA’s deputy CIO, has been serving as acting CIO since Garcia’s departure. EFL Associates is assisting with this search as well.
Executive Director Greg Trujillo said he is still interviewing candidates but hopes to have the position filled by the end of the fiscal year - June 30th.
PERA is responsible for a retirement fund for about 92,000 New Mexico state workers and retirees. Its strategic asset allocation includes 35.5% to global equity, 19.5% to risk reduction and mitigation; 15% to credit-oriented fixed income; 20% to real assets and 10% to multi-risk allocation. For the fiscal year ended June 30, it posted a net return of 24.02%.


New York City Comptroller Brad Lander launched a nationwide search for a new NYCRS' CIO in March, with the hope of having someone in the role by fall.

The CIO is responsible for overseeing the Bureau of Asset Management, which manages a $274 pension portfolio. Alex Doñé stepped down from the role in December after holding it on a permanent basis for three years. Deputy CIO Michael Haddad is serving as the interim CIO. Doñé recently joined Platinum Equity Partners as a managing director. 

Lander announced that the search will include the participation of independent investment experts and the system's trustees. The search's advisory committee is comprised of Charmel Maynard, CIO and university treasurer, University of Miami; Josh Steiner, chairman of the board, Castleton Commodities International and senior advisor, Bloomberg LP; Roy Swan, director, Mission Investments, Ford Foundation; and Monte Tarbox, executive director for investments, National Electrical Benefit Fund. Korn Ferry is managing the search. 


Liza Crisafi announced earlier this year that she would retire as CIO of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System on July 31. Crisafi has led the $11.1 billion fund since 2008. She previously served as the plan’s deputy CIO. SDCERS administers the employee defined benefit pension plans for the city, port and airport. It serves nearly 21,000 members. EFL Associates also is handling this search.


VRS CIO Ronald S. Schmitz announced in November that he intends to retire at the end of 2022. He joined in October 2011 after being CIO for the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System. During his time leading the VRS Trust Fund, it has grown from $51 billion to $101.8 billion as of June 30. Korn Ferry has been retained by the board to conduct the search. The board anticipates hiring a new CIO later this year, giving them time to serve alongside Schmitz. VRS serves more than 750,000 actives and inactive members, retirees and beneficiaries.