Georgia hires alternatives heads

The US' 'peach' state, which only last year authorised its pensions to invest in alternatives, has hired Ben Cahyono and Catharine Burkett as co-directors of alternatives.

The Georgia Division of Investment Services, which runs about $14 billion in state pension assets, has hired two people to head up its newly formed alternative investments programme that could be operational this year.

The system hired Ben Cahyono from asset manager Delaware Investments, and Catharine Burkett from Camden Partners, as co-directors of the alternative investments programme. According to Cahyono’s and Burkett’s LinkedIn profiles, they started at the system in November. An investment official with the Georgia system confirmed the hires, but declined to comment further.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed legislation last year authorising the state’s largest pension funds to invest in private equity and other alternative assets. The biggest fund allowed to invest in the asset class, the $11.8 billion public employees’ fund, can target up to 5 percent of total assets for alternatives.

Interestingly, the $53 billion Teachers Retirement System of Georgia, the biggest pool of retirement capital in the state, has not been authorised to invest in private equity.

The law restricts how the public employees’ fund can launch its strategy, including barring it from committing more than 1 percent of its assets to alternatives annually. The bill was approved by the state legislature in early 2012.

The division is working on building the programme this year, though it’s not clear if Georgia will start investing in alternatives in 2013. Georgia was the last state in the US to allow its pensions to invest in alternatives, according to material provided by sponsors of the state legislation that authorised alternative investing.