NYSTRS names private equity head

The New York State Teachers' Retirement System has moved its former head of real estate, John Virtanen, into the top role within the private equity programme.

The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System has appointed its former head of real estate, John Virtanen, to run its $7.2 billion private equity programme.

Virtanen has been with the pension system since 1977 and has worked on real estate investing through his entire career. His first job was as a mortgage investment assistant in the mortgage servicing section, according to a statement from NYSTRS.

Over his career, he has also worked in mortgage loan origination and managed the pension fund’s mortgage investment and equity real estate investment programmes, the statement said. He took over all real estate-related investments in 2005 and was named managing director of real estate.

In his role as managing director of private equity, Virtanen fills a position that has been vacant since 2011, when Dhvani Shah, the former managing director of private equity, left to take on the role of chief investment officer at the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

The strength and quality of the team gave us the flexibility to fill the positions from within.

NYSTRS

While Virtanen doesn’t have private equity experience on his resume, the system is confident in the team he will be leading, which has continued to keep the programme active even in the absence of a head of the asset class, according to a New York State Teachers’ spokesperson.

“The strength and quality of the team gave us the flexibility to fill the positions from within,” the spokesperson said.

NYSTRS has six private equity investment professionals who work under the managing director of private equity, and one support staffer. The portfolio has made $13.7 billion in private equity commitments since its inception in 1999, according to a statement from the system. The portfolio accounted for about 8.1 percent of the pension system’s fund, the statement said.

Within private equity, NYSTRS invests in buyout, venture capital, international and special situations, and also has about $1.2 billion of real estate and timberland investments categorised as real estate equity.

In October, NYSTRS hired former manager of private equity at Verizon Investment Management Company, Danielle Seger. Seger joined NYSTRS in August as a private equity investment officer.