2020 Knowledge Brokers

Mika Malone

Managing Principal/Consultant
Meketa Investment Group
Portland, Oregon

An English major in college, Mika Malone initially thought she wanted to be a liberal arts professor. After a series of fortunate networking connections, she started work at Clark Enterprises, which has varied investment holding and is focused on cash management. Then she had a summer internship at Meketa Investment Group. “I fell in love with client work and research,” she said. Following a brief sabbatical in New Zealand, she returned to Meketa as an investment analyst and operations officer—and got her MBA.

Along the way, Malone realized that her English lit training was helpful in communicating with people verbally and in writing, which is key to consulting. She has a passion for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, a strategy that many institutional clients prize. Six years ago, she opened the firm’s Portland office. She has watched various trends come to the fore, such the yen for passive investing and new growth. Putting a premium on risk-mitigating strategies, she advises clients “why not to just put their money into the S&P 500” solely.

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

Malone: Diversify and rebalance! And plan for the worst-case scenario, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Even when it feels difficult, and when it’s not paying off, you have to construct portfolios to plan for the next crisis, even though it’s impossible to predict what or when it will be.

Risk-mitigating strategy programs really helped clients in the first quarter of this year when the equity markets drew down significantly. Taking some of those assets off the table, and rebalancing back into equities, where appropriate, in April, was really helpful to client portfolios.

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

Malone: Not a lot looks good right now. US equity markets have rebounded so much that they’re again priced to perfection, and there’s still a great deal of uncertainty around the virus.

That said, certainly there’s a lot of support for some of the biotech companies, public and private, where vaccine development is strong. Other areas of health care are more challenged. I think it’s tough to be valuation-sensitive in today’s environment while acknowledging the market’s “don’t fight the Fed” mentality. You want to be sure you are exposed to the broad equity market, but at what level? Do you do that passively or actively?

CIO: What ones don’t? And why?

Malone: It’s pretty hard to be excited about fixed income these days, given low interest rates and defaults creeping up in credit markets. At the same time, these investments are your anchor to windward in times of distress, so you need to maintain some exposure. It’s back to my earlier point—diversify!

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