A flippant, fearless, and fundamental countdown of big money investing.

20 18

#19 Governance

Romancing Your Board

Hot tip: Win an award? Thank your board. Interview with the press? “I couldn’t do it without them!” Dentist admires your healthy gums? “Oral or investment, my trustees inspire consistent implementation of best practices.” 

If this sounds like every halfway-­successful asset owner, blame survivorship bias. Those who win over boards survive. Or, at least, survive long enough to prove their actual merits. Five young rock stars that vaulted into top jobs agreed on the key to engaging trustees: Empathy. 

It is crucial to be able to “put yourself in the shoes of the decision-makers,” as said by both Ed Hetherington (managing director at the University of North Carolina’s endowment) and Evalinde Eelens (investment manager for candy maker Mars). “Listen to what board members say and remember to respond to it,” Eelens continued. “If you don’t have the answers ready, make sure to come back to it, and provide the context in which the question was asked in the first place.”

“Be on time,” advised Danish public pension CIO Anders Hjælmsø Svennesen, who leapt from ATP co-chief to boss of Danica last year. Deliver “quality, trustworthiness, and thoroughness” plus punctuality, and “the board will support you,” he assured. 

There is support… and then there’s trusting a brand-new first-time CIO to partner with Bill Gates, represent the institution at the White House, and rebuild—from the ground up—a $100 billion portfolio and investment team. Former University of California investment chair Paul Wachter helped hire CIO Jagdeep Bachher in 2014. “We needed serious organizational skills,” Wachter said, along with the “ability to deal well with all of those different constituents, from the board and president to student groups.” 

A year-and-a-half later, Bachher won CIO of the Year at CIO’s Industry Innovation Awards. He stood beside University President Janet Napolitano as she made the acceptance speech. That’s trust.

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