Upon learning Exelon’s Chief Investment Officer Doug Brown has mentored at least seven people into CIO positions, we launched a series that is following and interviewing his successful ‘graduates’ on the leadership methods that helped them to rise to greatness. This month, we feature Angie Buk, who considers Brown her mentor since 1999, and has risen to become a CIO at two different public companies.
As a young professional, when she started her family in 2004, Buk was able to launch a very successful career while raising three young children — a fete that is becoming increasingly difficult. In 2002 in fact, 33% of successful women (such as doctors, lawyers, business executive, etc.) in the 41-55 age bracket were childless, and that figure rose to 45% for jobs at corporations according to a study cited in the Harvard Business Review. Since the Great Financial Crisis, the fertility rate, which measures births in the U.S., has been on a relatively steady decline, and is dipping below the replacement rate needed to replace the current workforce, despite a slight uptick during the pandemic. As pundits ponder the effect of the population decline on the future GDP, one of the things that has been shown to increase it is a workplace policy that is family friendly, with flexible work schedules, childcare and parental leaves.
In fact, (in addition to her high aptitude,) a flexible working arrangement and fair treatment by Brown, are two of the factors Buk credits to her success, since Brown had a habit of allowing his investment team’s families to remain prominent in their lives. (As Neil Roache says, even his kids thought Brown was “cool.”)
It made all the difference when Buk was a new mother managing her career and her family while working at Chrysler.
Angie Buk, CIO of 3M
Angie Buk, lauded by other corporate CIOs as one to watch in the industry, is now vice president of benefit funds investment for 3M, and its $35 billion benefit plan assets, as of August 2021, and former chief investment officer of DTE (from 2016 through 2021.)
Doug Brown became Buk’s mentor in 1999, when she was his direct report at Chrysler Financial’s Corporate Finance and Securitization department. Even though he had gone on to other Treasury roles and eventually the Chrysler CIO, and she had taken different roles within the corporation’s Treasury and other Finance divisions, she still felt his encouragement. Buk’s aptitude and past experience likely already pegged her as a rising star, as she held both a bachelor’s and masters degree from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, a CPA, and is a Level II candidate in the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst program. She also had worked as a senior auditor for Deloitte & Touche LLP, where she audited pension plans, financial institutions and real estate firms, servicing Fortune 500 clients. She started a family in 2004, and, two years later, after the birth of her second child, needed a flexible work arrangement. In 2006 she joined the Chrysler Treasury Asset Management division, and shared a full-time role covering the private equity portfolio, working two or three days every other week. (She reported to Bob Watson, whom we will also interview as part of this series.)
As new mothers often are, she had been a bit concerned that her career would be handicapped by her part-time status. She worried that she might be passed over for promotions, and that she wouldn’t get the guidance of a full-time worker.
“That wasn’t the way he saw it, however. Doug demonstrated unquestionable support of this flexible work arrangement. I never felt like a less important member of the team just because I was part-time,” said Buk.
As a leader, Brown set the tone that helped her career to flourish.
“He led at the speed of trust,” reflected Buk.
Key to his leadership that worked best for her development was that he was a results-based leader. He wasn’t about commanding his team to be at their desks from 9 to 5, or 8 to 6, he was about setting ambitious goals each year and producing great results.
“A well-managed project would allow us to get through the work,” she said. He understood that things took time, and supported partitioning larger projects into stages. The approach fostered confidence within the team.
“He recognized, supported, encouraged and created an environment for good work. And, as a result, he got it,” said Buk.
In working with Brown earlier in his career, Buk had watched as he learned his pension experience. “He certainly was a quick study, it seemed to me that he was a master of what he was doing very, very quickly and a real leader, and then he quickly turned that into helping and mentoring others,” said Buk.
Even when Buk didn’t report directly to Doug Brown, he still found the time to give her guidance. “I just remembered at a very young age getting positive feedback on having good analytical skills and whatnot… he always cared about you and your growth and your development.”
This year, although Buk’s schedule is incredibly tight, (as 3M announced a spin off its healthcare business barely a year after she started her role, according to a company press release,) and she barely has time to sneeze, she took the call because it was for research for a story about Brown.
“I don't think I'll ever be able to repay him for his great mentorship,” she said.
In 2009, after the Great Financial Crisis, Brown left Chrysler to take the CIO post at Exelon, and her boss, Bob Watson, (another one of Brown’s mentees) was promoted to chief investment officer. Buk’s career skyrocketed in 2010 through a double promotion to senior management. The mother of three children returned to a full-time role covering risk management, investment operations, and defined contribution. Her final role at Chrysler was as the head of alternative investments, still reporting to Bob Watson, and from there, it was onward to become a CIO.
Yet she and Brown’s paths still crossed through the trade association CIEBA (Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets).
After Buk left Chrysler in 2016 for the CIO role at DTE, Brown, then CIEBA’s chairman, nominated her to the role of CIEBA Treasurer, which she still serves to this day.
Five years later in 2021, she left DTE for the CIO role at 3M, where she is today.
“I admire Doug’s management style and do my best to incorporate it into my style,” she told Institutional Allocator.
As a CIO, Buk approaches her new role first and foremost as an investment fiduciary. And during her short, 21-month tenure to date at 3M, after first getting to know the team and portfolios, she has capitalized on de-risking opportunities and focused on streamlining some of the processes. She is now supporting the aforementioned divestiture of 3M’s healthcare business group from a benefit funds investment perspective.
As Buk and her investment team determine appropriate investment strategy and eliminate redundancies, she says she has often found herself emulating his style. She reflected, “It’s making sure that they have wonderful, great challenging work that fills their plate.”
And, echoing Brown’s formula with her own team, even though projects can sometimes feel like a big lift, she’s breaking them down into segments to guide them, with the understanding that certain things take time. And she’s communicating with the key message, “We can get this done. And it may not benefit us immediately, but after the streamlining, you'll feel the efficiencies of that initiative.”
By Christine Giordano
CIO Neil Roache of J&J discusses the “Doug Model”