PA SERS names alternatives chief

Lauren Lenfest, former co-director of alternative investments at the pension fund, will replace retiring alternatives director Bruce Feldman.

The Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System has promoted Lauren Lenfest, co-director of alternative investments, to full director, replacing Bruce Feldman who is retiring 17 June.

The $26 billion pension’s chief investment officer Anthony Clark announced the promotion at the pension board’s meeting Wednesday. The alternatives director leads the private equity and venture capital investment programmes. Real estate is led by Dave Kalman.

Feldman had worked as alternatives chief since 2000. Under his direction, the pension's alternatives portfolio grew in value to more than $6.5 billion “and has been SERS top performing asset class, with a 20-year annualised return, net of fees, of 12.2 percent”, a spokesperson for the pension said.

However, the pension's allocation to the asset class jumped beyond its target allocation in the past few years, reaching an actual allocation of 25 percent. The pension reduced the target to private equity late last year from 24.5 percent to 15 percent and has been only making commitments to existing managers in the portfolio, funneling distributions into fixed income investments.

The pension reported earning $1.2 billion in the first quarter this year, with private equity returning 7.3 percent, real estate returning 4.4 percent and venture capital generating the highest return of all asset classes of 8.6 percent. The alternatives returns routinely lag other asset classes by one quarter, and so the pension's alternatives returns actually reflect 2010 fourth quarter performance numbers.

The pension board this week also approved $45 million of alternatives commitments at the meeting. PA SERS directed $20 million to Cross Atlantic Technology Fund III and $25 million to HIG Growth Buyouts & Equity Fund II, targeting $450 million for mid-market growth investments.