CalPERS hires ABB Group pension management chief

  • CalPERS hires Elisabeth Bourqui
  • Succeeds Tollette as chief operating investment officer
  • Will help direct changes in PE, asset allocation: Eliopoulos

California Public Employees’ Retirement System hired the former head of ABB Group’s pension-management team to succeed Wylie Tollette as its chief operating investment officer.

Elisabeth Bourqui will take over for Tollette on May 14. Her responsibilities will include the day-to-day management and operations of CalPERS’s investment division, which controls roughly $350 billion of assets.

Similar to her role at ABB Group — a global engineering company that generated $34 billion of revenue last year — she’ll also work on compliance, audit and risk functions for the system.

Under Bourqui, ABB’s pension system included more than 100 defined-benefit and 50-odd defined-contribution plans, according to a 2015 profile.

Her responsibilities involved managing risk and asset allocations across pension plans around the globe, which meant managing compliance-related issues dictated by a wide range of regulators and governmental entities.

“Elisabeth will strengthen our efforts to innovate, and to integrate business practices across our global investment platform. She will also be instrumental in the implementation of business strategies particularly in private equity and asset allocation,” CalPERS Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos said in a statement.

CalPERs is weighing significant changes to its PE program, including hiring an outside firm to direct its fund and co-investment decisions moving forward.

BlackRock was widely reported to be an early contender for the role. AlpInvest Partners, Goldman Sachs, Hamilton Lane, HarbourVest Partners and Neuberger Berman also submitted proposals to help manage the $27 billion PE portfolio.

Earlier this year, the retirement system also launched a search process to succeed PE chief Real Desrochers, who left last year for a position with CITIC Private Equity Funds Management.

Tollette, who’d been instrumental in creating CalPERS’s system for tracking and reporting PE-related expenses, left CalPERS in December to rejoin his former firm, Franklin Templeton.

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Photo of Elisabeth Bourqui courtesy of CalPERS.