After only six weeks at the University as Wesleyan’s Chief Investment Officer (CIO), Anne Martin has settled into her new job, hanging photos of the Kibera School on her office walls. The former member of the U.S. National Rowing team that won the gold at the 1986 World Championships and member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team was selected as the new CIO after an intense search that began in October following the infamous dismissal of former CIO Thomas Kannam. Martin sat down with The Argus to discuss the challenges of her job as well as what she hopes to accomplish in the next fiscal year.
The Argus: What drew you to Wesleyan?
Anne Martin: There were a bunch of factors. First, I was really excited about eventually becoming a CIO somewhere. I didn’t have any particular timing in mind, but this came along and I felt like I was at the right place in my own career, that it was something I could handle, and it was the right time to move on. The second thing is that I have many ties to this school. My brother was class of ’82, my sister was class of ’87. I have two cousins who were ’88 and ’90. My uncle was class of ’61 and my great-uncle was class of ’20-something. The ’92 Patricelli Theater is actually named after my great-uncle, Leonard Patricelli. When I go home for a vacation I get to hear my entire family sing those Wesleyan songs about the bells ringing over South College. I do have a vested interest in its well-being and felt like I could really make an impact here. So that was really exciting for me; there is a psychic reward for me for coming to Wesleyan.
A: As you know—The Argus first reported this story last year—you are taking over the position of CIO that was held by Thomas Kannam, who is now involved in lawsuits brought by Wesleyan and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Do you see any challenges coming into this position after him?
AM: I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what happened before I came here. My job is taking the endowment from this point forward. I think Wesleyan has a very strong brand name out there. There are a lot of people, including potential managers for the endowment, who think very highly of the University and will want to help the school. I think that people who know me also know that I will operate with a very high level of integrity, and I don’t think people we are talking to are going to be worried about how we run the Investments Office or whether these things will happen again.
A: Prior to coming to Wesleyan, you worked at Yale as one of six directors managing the endowment and oversaw three people. Now that you are at Wesleyan, are you going to make any changes to the way our endowment is managed?
AM: Yes—we are going to build a staff here. Right now it is just me and [Investment Analyst] Brett Salafia. We are going to maintain an external manager model, which means we are not going to be picking stocks ourselves—we are going to be managing managers. But even that requires a tremendous amount of analytical work, communication with those managers, and understanding the underlying portfolio. To do that you need more than just two people. My vision is that in three or four years we will have five or six people here. We will have to build some capacity here to do all the things we need to do.
A: As of the end of the fiscal year, June 30, where does Wesleyan’s endowment currently stand? In January 2010 the endowment was reported at $523 million.
AM: We haven’t completed our audit yet, but the endowment should stand at close to $513 million.
A: How have your first six weeks on the job been?
AM: Absolutely great. I love it. It has been really fun to learn about the portfolio and meet the investment committee members, staff, and senior cabinet members, and to meet some of the students. It’s a great intellectual challenge, and I think at the end of these six weeks I will have a vision for a first-year plan. There is a lot to do. We have to think hard about investment policy and look at the portfolio and how that fits with our objectives.
A: What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the next fiscal year?
AM: I hope we will have a core staff. I will have a much deeper understanding of all the managers on the portfolio; we will bring in some new managers as well as reevaluate the existing managers to understand what they bring to the portfolio and whether they should be part of Wesleyan’s endowment [management] going forward. We will have a policy asset allocation that everybody feels comfortable with, and we will have an investment guidelines statement that we all adhere to, think about, and live with going forward that will guide us in our manager selection.
A: Yale obviously has a much larger endowment than Wesleyan—what do you see as the difficulties and advantages to this transition?
AM: There are certainly some differences in managing a $500 million-plus endowment versus a $16.5 billion endowment. However, the first principles we used at Yale are universal no matter what size endowment you manage. You want to make sure you run a diversified portfolio with exposure to lots of different kinds of assets that behave differently in different economic conditions. First principles being that you want managers with high integrity and transparency; you want to make sure you have good alignment of interests with your managers. In terms of operations, we will need to think very differently from Yale. We are not going to have a 25-person staff here, so the way we track information, gather information, analyze information may have to be done differently. But, on the other hand, I think there are advantages to a smaller endowment. We will have fewer managers and less information to track. Also, particular to Wesleyan, we are rebuilding operations from scratch so we have the luxury to adopt best practices and we don’t have legacy operations that we have to change. For example, we will be able to adopt the best software for performance tracking rather than having to live with an older system.
A: I’ve heard that there will be positions available in your office for Wesleyan students. Could you tell me about that?
AM: We have job descriptions in the CRC [Career Resource Center] right now for interns. Also, we will be looking to hire a graduating senior this year to bring into the Investments Office as an investment analyst. We would love to have Wesleyan graduates in this office. I think there is a big benefit to hiring people who have an attachment to the school. Those people do not necessarily need to come in with investment management backgrounds but do need to be smart, articulate Wesleyan students who care about the school and have the best interests of the University at heart—that’s a wonderful match for an Investments Office.