Filling the shoes of Mark Anson, the highly regarded chief investment officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, is no easy task. Fortunately for Russell Read, filling shoes is something he does with relative frequency.
According to a 1999 profile in the New York Times, Read, then the director of investment-product design and risk management at Oppenheimer Funds, kept an extra pair of shoes under his desk. Apparently, he walked around so much that he frequently wore out his soles, necessitating a backup pair at the office.
Two weeks ago, Read, now 42 years old, was named the new CIO of CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the US with $208 billion (€164 million) in assets. Not only will Read now oversee one of the most influential institutional investors in the world, presumably, he will also be more forgiving on his loafers—people don’t walk in California.
Read’s diversity of experience was an important factor in his selection as CIO particularly given the pension fund’s broad asset mix. Some reports had speculated that the position would go to an internal member of CalPERS’ investment team. Leading contenders included Christy Wood, the pension fund’s head of equity investments; Curtis Ishii, head of fixed income; and Mike McCook, who ran CalPERS’ real estate program. McCook resigned from the pension fund last month.
“[Read’s] wide breadth of experience with all asset classes was a real breadwinner for him,” Rob Feckner, the president of CalPERS, told the Sacramento Bee.
Read, who received an MBA from the University of Chicago, also holds a PhD in
In the Times article seven years ago, it was clear that Read’s interests extended even further. The other items on (and under) his desk included: a black notebook containing mathematical formulas on investment strategy; two books by the physicist Richard P. Feynam—“I like to explore alternative physical structures,” he said; beignet mix from his favorite café in New Orleans; and a statue of Buddha, a reflection of his interest in India.
“I like to be surrounded by ideas,” Read said at the time.
No doubt he’ll be surrounded by plenty of ideas in his new position. Who knows? He might even plant some of his own.