Our Voices

Charting the Course: Interviews with David Brand, Jeremy Heer, Scott Pittman, Robert Q. Holley, and Daniel Gottlieb

David Brand, Chair, Investment Committee, City of Atlanta

The City of Atlanta has been firm about its commitment to closing gaps in capital allocation to women and people of color—and has been recognized by the DEIC Power 100 for its work. Can you share about how your commitment to embedding diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in your investment approach enhances the City’s ability to fulfill its fiduciary duty?

Minority business development, diversity, equity, and inclusion are in the DNA in the City of Atlanta. Whether we go back to Stan Scott of the Atlanta Daily World who advised Richard Nixon on setting up the Minority Business Development Agency to the greatest champion of minority business, my mentor and godfather, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Atlanta will always be committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and giving opportunities to those who have been shut out previously.

Jeremy Heer, Managing Director of Investment Research and Engagement, University of Illinois Foundation Investment Office

You’ve said in a previous interview that your goal is to do right by your clients: students and all future students at the University of Illinois. How does that guiding north star impact your investment philosophy and approach?

Since our clients exist in perpetuity, we manage the pool of endowment assets as a perpetual institution. In order to achieve intergenerational equity, we have the return goal of our payout rate plus inflation. Our long-term horizon allows us to think very long-term and to invest in assets that might be uncomfortable for investors with shorter time horizons. We are able to truly consider the full range of asset classes and instruments and we can be patient capital.

Scott Pittman, Senior Vice President and Chief Investment Officer, Mount Sinai Health System

You take a unique approach to portfolio diversification. In that approach, how do you center long-term considerations given your specific institutional needs and goals? What opportunities are you excited about?

Healthcare investment offices face unique challenges among institutional investors. These challenges demand strong alignment between the office, senior leadership, and trustees. While we continue to position the portfolio to take advantage of the long-term, we must also remain flexible in our approach with a willingness to evolve.

Unrelated to being a healthcare investment office, life sciences—both in public and private markets—present a compelling opportunity. The biotech space has experienced its longest historical correction while research and milestones have moved meaningfully forward. We believe life sciences present growth opportunities at value pricing. M&A is increasing within the public market and new company formations have improved capital discipline.

Robert Q. Holley, Executive Director, Baltimore City Fire and Police Employees’ Retirement System

You’ve mentioned workforce diversity is a critical issue for you. Drawing on your experience across multiple public pension funds, how do you see the role of public pension funds in advancing workforce diversity? What opportunities does workforce diversity bring for returns?

Workforce diversity is an important issue that has been prominent in the cultural discourse of late. In pension fund management, I believe diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and–perhaps most importantly—diversity of thought, can only enhance workplace effectiveness and investment returns. Baltimore Fire & Police Employees’ Retirement System has no formal diversity targets for staff or its investment managers. However, we feel that our workforce and vendors should reflect the existing diversity of our constituents. We strive to effectively perform our services to the sworn officers and firefighters of the City of Baltimore and embrace a diverse workforce. As constituents interact with our team, we want them to be confident that we have the best and brightest working on their behalf and those who reflect the amazing diversity within our great City.

Daniel Gottlieb, Chief Investment Officer, Southern Ute Indian Tribe

Reflecting on the past 8 years as the Tribe’s top investment official, first as the Director of Investments and now as the Chief Investment Officer, what lessons have you learned and what investment approaches are you eager to explore moving forward?

I read an article recently that talked about the lifecycle of an investment office and it discussed a two year “breaking-in” period, followed by an extended period of portfolio building, at which point the organization reaches something close to a steady state. I feel like we’re just getting to that point internally. We spent more than two years in the “groundbreaking” phase and really got to work on the portfolio about six years ago. Our team has now been built out and together for almost three years, so we’re not quite at the point where we can all finish each other’s sentences, but we’ve established comfortable daily and longer-term work patterns together.

Given all of that, the biggest lesson learned for me has been the value of patience. There have been times over the past few years where short-fuse opportunities that we have wanted to take advantage of have forced us to choose between doing something a little too quickly or not doing it. On the governance side, the work is never done and you’re always bouncing between time spent on the portfolio and time spent on structural issues. In hindsight, it has almost always been the case that taking our time (and if necessary, ignoring the shiny object in front of us) on investment ideas, and putting in the time on organizational work, has been the right move.

There are always asset classes and strategies that are floating into or out of favor. Right now, a more durable opportunity for us is thinking about how to align our portfolio with the Tribe’s values in a positive way. We’ve created a process to apply negative screens that will reduce situations where we could end up in a fund vehicle or single asset that the Tribe wouldn’t want to own, but the gap between that and being proactive about aligning organizational capital with mission and values is a greater challenge. It will require time (and patience!) but should be a rewarding project for us as an organization.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s Summer Investors Conference?

David Brand: I’m looking forward to continuing to tell the Atlanta story to the nation and the world.

Daniel Gottlieb: Our day-to-day work is physically isolated, so it’s always wonderful to get together with like-minded allocators and leaders from the mission-driven world to interact face-to-face. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to get to know RFK Human Rights more broadly and to interact with investors whose organizations and values are aligned. I’m also looking forward to exploring ways that institutional capital can collaborate to promote and advance RFK Human Rights’ core causes.

Jeremy Heer: I’m really looking forward to meeting a diverse group of interesting people, coming together with them to discuss important issues, and leaving with new contacts in the industry as well as information to confirm or challenge current investment theses in our portfolio or possibly new areas of research to consider.

Scott Pittman: Engaging with smart people across diverse backgrounds on their perspectives and experiences.