Three things you should know about CalPERS’ new PE head

Greg Ruiz, a former Goldman Sachs exec, will rely on his GP experience to help the US's biggest public pension push into direct investing.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest public pension in the US, named Greg Ruiz as its new managing director for private equity this week after a two-year vacancy.

Ruiz’s appointment is timely; the $360 billion pension is revamping its private equity portfolio and sees further investment in the asset class as instrumental to achieving its more than 7 percent target return. As CIO Ben Meng said at the pension’s investment committee meeting in February: “We need private equity, we need more of it, and we need it now.”

Here’s what we know about the man tasked to lead CalPERS’ $27.6 billion private equity portfolio.

He’s a public sector newbie

Ruiz is making the switch from private to public sector. He was previously a principal at Palo Alto, California-based mid-market firm Altamont Capital Partners, where he worked for six years and mainly focused on consumer deals. Before Altamont, he worked at FFL Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, where he focused on investments in the consumer, business services, and technology sectors. Ruiz started as an associate with FFL in 2007, left the firm to get his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business and came back to FFL as vice-president “quarterbacking the execution of transactions and dealing with all of the various parties involved in an investment”, according to source with knowledge of the matter. Ruiz worked for two years at Goldman Sachs’ private equity group earlier in his career, according to his LinkedIn.

His GP experience will be key as CalPERS ramps up direct investing

Ruiz was involved in new transactions as well as portfolio company management at his former employers. This will be a big advantage for CalPERS as it seeks to build its two direct investing pillars: “innovation”, which is dedicated to late-stage venture capital and “horizon”, which will make longer term investments in core economy companies, and explores different approaches to investing in the asset class. His solid technical training in financial analysis and deal execution will also be a big plus for the pension, the source added.

He will “get along well with all kinds”

Ruiz’s role is about developing and managing CalPERS’ allocation of investments across strategic partnerships, co-investments and direct private equity investments, according to a job post on LinkedIn. Another key responsibility is representing the pension in the external investment community. CalPERS said in an investment committee in June last year that it wants to expand the amount of capital in its Emerging Manager programme and beef up co-investment capabilities with its fund of funds managers.

Former employers of Ruiz PEI spoke to agreed he will do well in his outward-facing role because “he understands the personalities of the GP world and will be able to deal with them”.

“Greg is very smart, practical, and experienced. He has a great sense of humour and is widely liked – a good call by CalPERS,” said Spencer Fleischer, managing partner and co-founder of FFL.

“He’s been a great member of the firm and worked with us for over six years,” said Altamont’s director of HR Annley Dempsey. “We wish him well.”