June Kim Director, Global Equity, California State Teachers’ Retirement System West Sacramento, California Art by Iris Lei
June Kim

“June is a strong dynamic leader, of not just our $100 billion plus global equity portfolio, but as a mentor to high school girls in our community through Rock the Street, Wall Street. During a critical transition period, she stepped in to act as one of our interim deputy chief investment officers. Under all the added work and pressure, June never lost her drive or focus. June reaches out to young women to pull them in and, to those just starting, pull them up. Her actions show that her vision of the industry’s future to influence, create a demand for, and retain women in the profession will happen.”

— Christopher J. Ailman, CIO, CalSTRS

June Kim is California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s global equity director, making her the leader of the largest asset class at the nation’s second-largest retirement system. She joined the organization about five years ago. Prior to this, she worked for nearly seven years as a principal investment officer at the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association. Kim began her career in the private sector, in varying asset management positions at Northern Trust, Barclays Global Investors, and Wilshire, plus some time on the sell-side at Citibank.

Kim is responsible for the more than $100 billion equity portfolio, which constitutes approximately 51% of the total $233.9 billion CalSTRS investment portfolio. Aside from her responsibilities at the pension fund, she’s an advisory board member for Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit that focuses on increasing the number of women in leadership positions in the investment industry. Kim is a volunteer for Rock the Street, Wall Street, a financial literacy program that’s tailored to high school girls.

Kim speaks with CIO about some of her most exceptional experiences throughout her nearly 25-year career, and how she navigates a massive portfolio through volatile markets

CIO: What makes 2019 an interesting investing climate? How are you handling it?

Kim: The US equity market has had a 10-year bull run, so the question is how much further and longer will it go. Volatility is back and looks like it’s here to stay for a while. This makes for a challenging investing climate in 2019 across global markets. We handle it by staying fairly neutral to our benchmark and having cash available. We would like to have some more clarity on the tariff situation with China.

CIO: After this year, what are the largest opportunities and the largest threats you see on the horizon?

Kim: Emerging markets look attractive, but with China being the largest market in EM, depending on what happens with the US trade situation, there could be increased volatility and downside risk.

Given the strong returns we have seen in the US equity market, the next few years will most likely produce more limited results. CalSTRS has been increasing the amount of assets we manage internally, with the primary driver being to reduce costs. We will continue to look for areas to bring assets in house, which will help improve our net of expense returns. In a challenging return environment, any part of the portfolio where we can save on fees adds to our bottom line.

CIO: How did you arrive at your current position? And why did you choose this part of the financial services industry?

Kim: I spent the first half of my career working at financial firms in the private sector. The second half has been at public pension funds. I believe strongly in the mission of CalSTRS, which is to secure the financial future and sustain the trust of California’s educators.

CIO: What was the most important strategic allocation of your career?

Kim: Moving to the public sector. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with fantastic people at a job that I find challenging, fulfilling, and meaningful. The work we do helps provide financial security for over 900,000 teachers, over 70% of whom are women.

CIO: Who in the financial world would you like to have lunch with and why?

Kim: Janet Yellen, the first woman to serve as chair of the Federal Reserve. I would love to hear her perspective on what it was like to be in that role within a hugely male-dominated industry and also how, beginning in 2015, she carefully managed the first increases in US interest rates since the great financial crisis.

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

Kim: I would like to see increased gender diversity in the investment industry, especially at senior management levels, as this should help increase diversity of thought, which leads to better group decisions and less group think. Research by McKinsey and LeanIn.org has shown that at the current pace, it will take multiple decades to reach gender parity at all levels within the investment industry. At entry level, the representation of men and women is pretty even, but the percentage of women declines at each subsequent level, and at the SVP and C-Suite levels, women make up only about 20%. For real change to happen, companies need to take action. They can start by reviewing and making changes to hiring and promotion processes, where needed, to mitigate for unconscious bias and create more merit-based workplaces.

CIO: What are your hobbies not correlated to work?

Kim: I am a HUGE LA sports fan—Dodgers and Lakers all the way!!

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