Howard Bicker Joins Hall of Fame

Sometimes the love between someone and their mentor is so palpable that it’s transcendent.

We, at Markets Group and its affiliated publication, Institutional Allocator, celebrated an incredible moment this month, upon introducing our CIO Hall of Fame award in Minneapolis. Our first inductee was Chief Investment Officer Mansco Perry of the Minnesota State Board of Investment, who was nominated by his CIO peers for his stellar returns (top 1% of public pension funds $20 billion and above), and for handling the $130 billion fund with a fraction of the staff (with each investment staff member handling $8 billion instead of the typical $3 billion.)

Perry will be retiring on October 11 to be succeeded by Jill Schurtz. Yet Mansco told us that he couldn’t possibly accept the award without also acknowledging Howard Bicker, who had grown the fund over 42 years from $700 million to $68 billion, introduced its first private market and co-investments, and mentored six employees into CIO roles before giving the seat to Mansco, who took the fund to $130 billion.

Mansco convinced us to induct his mentor right alongside him, because many others were responsible for who he is today … and so we did. He insisted we keep it a secret from Howard, who would be doing a fireside chat with Mansco at our Institutional Forum preceding the ceremony. So, we quietly ordered the awards, and, with Mansco’s help, invited Howard’s friends and family members. Many hadn’t seen Howard for years, and when we hosted a fireside chat with these two legends, it was not only our great honor, it also seemed a special treat to the investor and asset owner attendees who laughed along and enjoyed their lessons learned.

Mansco, always the elegant attorney-turned-investor, took the microphone after Howard presented him with the Hall of Fame award. Somewhere during the speech, he looked at Howard and paused in gratitude, his voice breaking with emotion. Tears glistened in his eyes.

It’s not often that you see that kind of gratitude from a mentee to a mentor, but it was there. Howard had shepherded that fund for 42 years, and first hired and trained Mansco early in his career. After working for Howard, Mansco had gone on to take two other CIO posts, but when it came time for him to retire, Howard beckoned Mansco back and offered him the CIO seat to keep the Minnesota fund in safe and capable hands.  

The room seemed to swell with emotion right along with Mansco as the retiring CIO wiped a tear, turned, and presented the award as one last thank you to the man who had been such a large part of his life and career.

We know all Hall of Fame stories in the years to come may not be as powerful. But it was certainly a great beginning. The award is given to recognize a CIO’s influence on the financial industry, career accomplishments, and overall contributions and collaborations within the broader allocator community, and to acknowledge those of you who often give so much of yourselves for the sake of keeping your funds and investment teams healthy and safe. My ears are open to your nominations.

Story and photo by Christine Giordano