PennSERS names Winchester CIO

The Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System has named two longtime staffers, John Winchester and Leonard Knepp, as the pension’s new chief investment officer and executive director.

The Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System has appointed Leonard Knepp as executive director and John Winchester as chief investment officer. The $35 billion (€24 billion) pension system’s board conducted a search to fill the two positions but ultimately decided that Knepp and Winchester, who had filled the positions in an acting capacity since the summer, were the best candidates.

“Their skills are second to none and their knowledge and commitment to SERS could not be matched by any outside candidate,” PennSERS chairman Nicholas Maiale said in a statement.

Denver-based EFL Associates assisted in the search, PennSERS said, which began after Peter Gilbert left his post as CIO after 14 years to take the helm at Lehigh University’s endowment fund. Around that time executive director Eric Henry left PennSERS to take the same position at the $14 billion Texas Municipal Retirement System.

Knepp has been at PennSERS for 25 years and was most recently assistance executive director. Before, he was a director in the pension’s bureau of audits, reporting and compliance.

Winchester has been at PennSERS for 10 years. He was most recently director of public markets. Before joining PennSERS he worked at Texaco and International Paper and at the Connecticut State Treasurer’s Office.

The pension fund recently approved a round of new private equity commitments. The fund will commit $30 million to LLR Equity Partners III and $25 million to Sigular Guff BRIC Opportunities II.

PennSERS currently allocates around 13.7 percent of its portfolio to private equity and venture capital. The pension has also invested with Apax Partners, The Blackstone Group, Apollo Management, Cerberus Capital Management and TPG, among others.