Jeffrey Mindlin CFA, VP, Investments, Arizona State University Enterprise Partners Tempe, Arizona Art by Iris Lei
Jeffrey Mindlin

“Jeff Mindlin is a trailblazer.  One the best decisions I’ve made as CEO was to hire him to join our team. He’s the perfect CIO to serve in support of the most innovative university in the United States (Arizona State University listed #1 for innovation in U.S. News & World Report ranking) given he’s unafraid to promote bold initiatives and new strategic partnerships. His approach is paying off and we are reaping the benefits of Jeff’s energy and expertise.”

– R.F. “Rick” Shangraw, Chief Executive Officer, ASU Enterprise Partners

Jeffrey Mindlin leads the office of investments at Arizona State University’s Enterprise Partners, a foundation where he employs his education-oriented initiatives that have made him well-suited for a position in this year’s NextGen series. His initiatives in launching InvestU, hands-on investment courses, and other endeavors showcase Mindlin’s liberal approach to his career, putting his mind to work on how he can help others rise through the ranks alongside him.

Mindlin enjoys the contrarian style to equity investments—he buys when the markets are sinking and sells when everything’s going great. His career so far spans as chief investment officer at First Allied Asset Management, where he worked for about nine years, and co-chief investment officer at Tower Square Investment Management.

His innovative, community-oriented approach to invested is what makes Mindlin a stand-out member of this year’s NextGen series. He sits with CIO to discuss his work to date, the programs he manages, and thriving in today’s bull market.

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

Mindlin: This definitely seems to be a late-cycle backdrop. After years of below average volatility, we are seeing periodic violent moves down, which makes everyone think the music is ending. However, just as quickly as we go down, the market rips higher. The volatility isn’t abnormal—it just feels novel since it has been so long since we’ve experienced it. We don’t see a recession in the near-term, so we’ve been trying to stay the course and take advantage of market overreactions to add equity exposure in measured ways.


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

Mindlin: In most ways, the past 10 years have been as good as it gets. The equity bull market has been strong and bonds have seen solid gains from lower rates and tighter credit spreads. Despite this backdrop, most institutional investors haven’t made hay while the proverbial sun was shining. For instance, public pensions still face a massive underfunding crisis and most endowments didn’t grow in real terms above their payout (2018 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments showed a median 10-year return of just 5.7%). I’m worried about the societal impact if the next 10 years are not so benign. I think this does provide a great opportunity for all of us stewards to add value in the next chapter. I believe alternatives, especially private equity and uncorrelated hedge funds, will be the keys to success going forward. I’m continually trying to find ways to leverage our competitive advantages to drive performance.


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

Mindlin: I spent most of my career on the retail side of financial services. Some of our most successful strategies involved bringing institutional approaches to high-net-worth investors. A few years ago, the leadership at the ASU Foundation was looking to bring someone in to build out their investment office from the ground up. It was a great opportunity to return to my alma mater and help design an investment approach befitting of A New American University. I love the energy in working at a university as well as having the opportunity to see the direct impact that our efforts have in multiple ways, including advancing research and enabling students to attend college.


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

Mindlin: I tend to be a contrarian investor—looking to sell when things seem rosy or buy when the sky is falling. In the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, we saw a big opportunity in the high yield bond asset class that had been absolutely clobbered. Even with above-average defaults, the yields were so high that we thought we could get near equity-like returns just from clipping the coupons. That one bet drove most of our outperformance for the next three years!  


CIO: Tips for money managers who want to work with you, especially what not to do. (Feel free to mention a funny goof story.)

Mindlin: I probably get upwards of 20-30 cold solicitations from managers a week. I generally just hit delete. It’s a relationship business so I am much more likely to have a discussion with a manager if there’s a connection or a warm intro involving a colleague. One experience that made a lasting, positive impression was with a manager I was already working with. While he was in town, we grabbed a bite to eat for dinner after our meeting. At the end of the meal, he ordered a dessert to-go for me to bring home to my wife, which scored points for me as well!


CIO: Biggest goof a money manager has made with you? 

Mindlin: Along the lines of spam emails, I once got a series of mail merge-style messages from a manager over the course of a few weeks. I didn’t respond and with each successive email, the manager got more aggressive in asking for a phone call and questioning why I wasn’t replying. The problem was that he had messed up the mail merge and they were all personalized with the wrong name and firm. I finally replied that I wasn’t “sure who Tiffany was, but I hope she’s more interested in their strategy than I was.”


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

Mindlin: Larry Fink—we work very closely with BlackRock on our long-term pool and I’ve grown to greatly admire the firm. We’ve seen great alignment with our collective cultures’ focus on stewardship, innovation, and service. As much as ASU has become a leader in sustainability, I respect Larry’s leadership in using his platform to promote corporate responsibility to positively impact society and enhance long-term value. I find it fascinating how he has been able to build the largest asset manager in such a short time, and how they were tapped to use their analytic expertise to evaluate the abundance of toxic assets in the system after the Great Financial Crisis.


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

Mindlin: Over the next 10 years, I hope that socially responsible investing becomes more accepted and integrated in institutional portfolios. I hope the stigma that we’re giving up returns to invest responsibly is replaced with confidence that we can enhance long-term, risk-adjusted returns by using environmental, social, and governance factors as a non-financial lens in the evaluation process. By definition, institutional investors are stewards of someone else’s money so I believe a non-concessionary mission alignment can not only help drive performance, but also help to mobilize private-sector capital to have positive health, social, and environmental effects. In my world of higher education in particular, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to think and act for the long-term good of society as we educate future leaders.


CIO: What are your hobbies not correlated to work?

Mindlin: My wife and kids are all swimmers, so we spend a lot of time on deck at swim meets. I also enjoy traveling with my family as it’s the one time we can unplug and spend time together without the chaos of school, work, and extracurricular activities.


CIO: What are the three things you’re most known for professionally?

Mindlin: A colleague once said I was like gas—expanding or contracting to fill whatever role was needed. While I don’t know how I feel about being compared to gas, I think I’ve always been known as being able to wear a lot of hats. Beyond my investment responsibilities, this can be seen through my oversight of our education tech accelerator, ScaleU, as well as our angel investor network, InvestU. I’m also really passionate about ASU’s philosophy of experiential learning and enjoy working with our student-managed funds, including helping kick off our first one geared toward socially responsible investing.

 

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