2021 Knowledge Brokers

Allan Emkin

Not many people can say that a CIO from one of the largest funds in the United States called them the “best consultant of all time,” but Allan Emkin has that distinction.

Known for being a “highly practical” generalist, with his 36 years of general consulting experience, Emkin can weigh in on a plethora of topics, including environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing. He also places an emphasis on public plan administration and investment policy, as well as international, global, and real estate investments. Emkin currently works as the lead consultant to large state and municipal funds, including some of the largest state pension funds in the United States. Now a managing principal and consultant at Meketa Investment Group, Emkin joined the firm in 2019 as part of the merger between Meketa and Pension Consulting Alliance (PCA) and is a member of the firm’s Investment Policy Committee.

Earlier in his career, Emkin was a vice president at Wilshire Associates. Before becoming a consultant, he worked in the California governor’s office in the pension investment unit, and, before that, he was a registered lobbyist for 10 years, specializing in affordable housing and other matters affecting low‑income families. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in community law from Antioch College West.

CIO: What new qualities do you look for in a manager/service provider given the pandemic’s financial and economic impacts?

Emkin: Certain key qualities that were important prior to the pandemic are even more important as we slowly “normalize.” We look for organizations with strong cultures, excellent communication skills, appropriate alignment of interest, and diversity. Organizations that have a collaborative, disciplined, and client-oriented culture and have shown a disciplined and consistent decisionmaking process will have superior results.

CIO: What changes are you making to your asset allocation advice?

Emkin: Asset allocation is, by far, the most impactful decision plan sponsors make. More attention is being focused on: 1) cash flow/liquidity management as plans experience increasing negative cash flow at the same time as allocating more to illiquid assets; 2) risk mitigation, as risk (high-return) oriented assets have increased allocations to meet challenging return expectations, and assets/strategies that effectively offset some of the attendant risk are vital to sustainability; and 3) diversification, having fundamental and not perceptual diversification to address a wide range of potential economic events, including inflation and deflation.

CIO: What do you think will be the biggest innovation in your industry in the next 10 years?

Emkin: Analytics and data will become democratized through advanced computing. This will be a game changer. Programs that solve highly complex problems that once required mainframe computers and batching overnight will be available in seconds using a hand-held device.

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