Former state pension chief to head Lehigh University endowment

Peter Gilbert, who for 14 years was the chief investment officer of the $32 billion Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System and built a major private equity programme there, will soon take the reins at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University.

The chief investment officer of the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, Peter Gilbert, has resigned from the $32 billion (€24 billion) pension fund and will take over as chief investment officer for Lehigh University’s Endowment Fund on 30 July.

Gilbert has been at Pennsylvania SERS since 1993. He presided over the creation of a major allocation to private equity funds. According to data service Private Equity Connect, PSERS has a 12 percent allocation to the private equity asset class, and roughly $850 million in current commitments to private equity funds.

“We are grateful for all Peter has done to build SERS into one of the leading public pension funds in the nation,” SERS board chairman Nicholas Mailale said in a statement. “His departure is a great loss for SERS.”

At Lehigh, Gilbert will manage a much smaller pool of assets than he did at Pennsylvania SERS, as Lehigh’s endowment is just over $1 billion. According to a tax filing for the fiscal year ended 30 June 2005, Lehigh’s endowment fund had invested more than $150 million in limited partnerships, though it did not indicate to which asset classes those partnerships correspond.

Gilbert’s move to Lehigh represents the school’s desire to establish a more professional staff to oversee its endowment. For the past 25 years, the endowment was overseen by a volunteer subcommittee of the university’s board of trustees, according to a statement from the university.

At Lehigh, Gilbert will no doubt look to replicate some of the performance generated during his tenure ate Pennsylvania SERS. In fiscal 2006, for example, the pension fund’s investments generated a return of 16.4 percent, including strong performances in alternative investments and real estate.

In a statement released earlier this year, Gilbert attributed the fund’s performance to “a broadly diversified portfolio that enabled us to capture strong returns in a range of asset classes, including real estate, up 17.6 percent; domestic stocks, up 18.8 percent; private equity, up 23.2 percent, and international stocks, up 26.8 percent”.