Class of 2017 Forty Under Forty

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Tom Kierzkowski Senior Portfolio Manager—Hedge Funds, Univest Company B.V.
(London, UK) 33
Tom Kierzkowski
(Art by Marcellus Hall)

Tom drove the strategy and implementation of a customized investment line-up for our DC plan. He was also instrumental in transitioning the program from a fund of funds structure to a portfolio of direct allocations, greatly reducing costs.

How have you been a change agent at your organization? What have you done that you’re particularly proud of?

Stripping out unnecessary complexity. I had the opportunity to redesign our largest DC plan’s investment lineup a few years ago; we moved to white labeled and customized options. Doing so improved and streamlined the lineup, improved the Plan’s governance structure and simplified the members’ decision-making process.

What is the asset class or investment that keeps you up at night, and why?

Both private and public market valuations are stretched, however taking into account record levels of inflows, unrealized value and dry powder, it is difficult to ascertain whether an illiquidity premium actually exists in privates.

What methodologies have you adopted within your institution?

Making more meaningful allocations within our hedge fund program, resulting in a more concentrated portfolio. Investors tend to underestimate the impact of netting risk in a portfolio where performance fees are paid.

Where do you fall in the passive vs. active debate?

Both are appropriate, as long as the exposure matches what you are paying for it!

What are the changes you’d like to see the institutional investing community make in 10 years?

More time spent on what really matters and less on relative performance to some arbitrary benchmark. Whether the goals are closing a funding gap, achieving a sufficient retirement outcome, or maintaining purchasing power…not beating some benchmark by ___bps.

Who is a manager you don’t currently work with whose brain you’d like to pick?

Howard Marks—he focuses on getting the small things right…consistency, discipline, and minimizing errors. Also, his newsletters are always an entertaining read, particularly where he throws sports into the mix.

Ideally, where would that meeting take place?

Anywhere. His choice.

What is the software investment tool that helps you most?

Not an investment tool, but Headspace helps me navigate through all the clutter that gets thrown at us on a daily basis.

What would improve the relationship between you and managers?

Common sense!

Why did you choose your current path?

I got my first taste of this industry when I was probably12 or 13, helping my parents make choices on their 401(k) plans. My parents grew up on small dairy farms in Poland before moving to the US and working in their blue collar jobs, so given their language barrier and my knowledge (or lack thereof) at the time…we probably settled on a highly sophisticated portfolio by using the (1/n) approach with the dozens of options provided. Fast forward to when I moved into an asset owner role and I realized it gave me a platform to make a difference by stripping out the unnecessary complexities and provide our members with the tools needed to achieve their goals.