Class of 2017 Forty Under Forty

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Timothy Price Chief Investment Officer, Contra Costa County Employees’ Retirement Association
(Concord, CA) 39
Timothy Price
(Art by Marcellus Hall)

Tim designed a new plan investment construct, gained approval from his board, evolved governance and is now methodically implementing a restructuring of the plan’s investment portfolio with a small team of two investment professionals.

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

Any pension fund has two investment-related functions: pay current benefits and provide long-term growth relative to some risk constraint. At CCCERA, we have been able to shift the conversation to a focus around how the investments align with these functions, and measure each investment accordingly. The portfolio is still being restructured, but when it is completed, I hope every stakeholder will be better able to understand in straightforward terms what we do and why we do it.

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

We take a long-term view based upon the valuations of our diversified portfolio of investments. That view lets us maintain perspective around market movements and sleep well at night.

What methodologies have you adopted within your institution?

It is the simple but not so easy thing: Starting with a philosophy and building a process around it to put it into practice.

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

Every strategy requires an active decision. The only question is whether a rules-based model that tracks the price behavior of securities at extremely low implementation costs accomplishes the organization’s investment goals. That is why at CCCERA, we have implemented a broad-based functional portfolio construction process that incorporates many asset classes and management styles.

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

Fewer product pitches, more alignment of interests around investor goals.

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

I’m going to expand the question a bit, and go for a figure from the past. I’ve always had great respect for John Maynard Keynes as an economist and author, but what he accomplished with the endowment of King’s College at Cambridge was even more impressive for me. He had clear goals and pursued them in a contrarian, but not dogmatic, manner. I’m also a stickler for humility and he was unafraid to admit when he had made an error in judgment and restructure the portfolio accordingly.

Ideally, where would that meeting take place?

His office.

What is the software investment tool that helps you most?

Data aggregation has been key for us to be better informed and make more structured investment decisions.

What would improve the relationship between you and managers?

I think we have great relationships with our managers but the best ones challenge us to think about how the trends in their portfolios might play out across the rest of our fund.

Why did you choose your current path?

I find the process of aligning investments with liabilities to be endlessly fascinating. Add to that the fact that I can support the board as stewards of our retirement system’s capital and it becomes an extremely rewarding path.