2020 Knowledge Brokers All Stars

Kristen Doyle

Partner and Global COO
Aon Investments USA
Chicago, Illinois

At Aon Investments USA, Kristen Doyle won the prestigious job of chief operating officer just a half-year ago. She continues in her role as head of public funds, and still works with clients, advising on asset allocation and investment policy.

After graduating from Denison as an economics major, she started her finance career at Northern Trust as an accounting analyst. But she had a yen to be involved in investments and got her Chartered Financial Analyst designation. She joined Aon Investments USA in 2005 and became global head of transition management.

On the side, she is active in Opportunity International, a nonprofit that arranges microfinancing in the developing world, helping people (many of them women) climb out of poverty by owning businesses.

CIO: What actionable thing have you learned over the course of your career that has proven itself this year?

Doyle: Resiliency and vulnerability. I have learned that to be an effective leader, you need to have both of these qualities. Resiliency for the hard times when colleagues need your leadership and clients need you to rise up to help them navigate tough waters. The last few months has certainly been challenging, requiring all leaders to demonstrate some level of resilience.

And vulnerability, I believe this is an imperative for successful leadership. During this pandemic, we have all struggled with the immediate overlap of our professional life and our personal life, and the more leaders are open and transparent about their experience and the impact on them, the more supported their teams and organizations will feel. Having a level of vulnerability also allows you to empathize with a client’s circumstance and to truly understand their challenges, an important characteristic to serving clients well.

This environment of Webex and Zoom meetings, children on top of us while we work, unavoidable isolation, and constant uncertainty of what the future holds, I believe, has proven that strong leaders must possess and demonstrate the ability to be resilient and vulnerable in the face of change and challenge.

CIO: What investments (specific securities or sectors) look good to you now? And why?

Doyle: Where we are seeing the most opportunity from the current market dislocation is in public and private credit. We believe that not only will this opportunity include both public and private credit, but there will also be short-, medium-, and long-term opportunities that will play out over the next 18-24 months.

CIO: What ones don’t? And why?

Doyle: There isn’t one particular investment or asset class that we are deliberately telling clients to avoid; however, we have had many conversations with clients around the use of US Treasuries in an institutional investment program given the even lower rate environment we find ourselves in. We still believe that Treasuries can serve as an important anchor to windward in a risk-off market environment (as we saw in the last year where they were one of the best-performing asset classes).

But we do recognize that there is a cost right now to having Treasuries in a portfolio. We have encouraged some clients to think about being sellers of government debt to fund other opportunities where appropriate and gains have accrued. This can be achieved primarily through rebalancing, or if governance and staff expertise allow, cycling between investment-grade credit, Treasuries and/or Treasury inflation-protected securities to take advantage of valuation differences.

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