Trio of Pensions Appoint New CIOs

Hiring new chief investment officers was the order of business this week at three of the nation’s pension funds in Illinois and Connecticut.

The $25 billion Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund named Dhvani Shah as its new chief investment officer. She will start her new role on Dec.19. Shah comes to IMRF from the $90 billion New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, where she has been managing director of the fund’s private equity investments. She joined NYSTRS in 2009.

At NYSTRS, Shah managed $7.2 billion in private equity assets, although there was no word as to whether her appointment points to a greater emphasis on private equity by IMRF. The pension’s alternative investment portfolio, which includes private equity, totaled less than $1 billion, or 4 percent of assets, as of Dec. 31, 2010.

Shah replaces Walter Koziol, a veteran of IMRF, who announced back in April that he planned to retire this year. Shah’s appointment leaves a crucial vacancy at NYSTRS in its private equity program.

Across town, the $5.4 billion Chicago Municipal Employees’ Annuity & Benefit Fund named Michael Walsh, a deputy Chicago treasurer, as its new chief investment officer. Walsh plans to start his new role in early 2012, according to a press release.

Walsh will be replacing Jim Mohler, who will become the pension’s new executive director after the retirement of Terrance Stefanski, who is slated to step down on Dec. 1.

As of June 30, the Chicago pension had just over $200 million, or 4 percent of its portfolio, in private equity, but because it has a 10 percent private equity target, the system is likely to make substantial new private equity commitments in coming years.

Finally, the $22 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds named Lee Ann Palladino as its permanent chief investment officer. Palladino has served as interim chief investment officer since May of this year, when Timothy Corbett stepped down to become chief investment officer and executive vice president of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Connecticut’s pensions have about $2 billion in private equity and venture capital, about 9 percent of the system’s $25 billion in assets. The system’s overall private investment target is 10 percent.