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

1) Lonesome Dove Western Bistro; 2) Turf N' Surf Po' Boy; 3) Texas ERS; 4) UTIMCO; 5) Texas Teachers; 6) Cafeteria, University Medical Center Brackenridge; 7) Texas Municipal Retirement System

#50 Location

Allocator Alley

If you hit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, you’ve gone too far. The institutional money starts a mile south, and doesn’t let up until the nightlife district.  

At least five major institutions invest upwards of $213 billion from the Texas capitol. Over the past several years, young people have flooded into Austin, now known for the SXSW Festival and a thriving startup scene. Public pension giants like the Teacher Retirement System of Texas may not score so many ‘cool’ points, but they’re magnets for up-and-coming investors from across the continent.

Three of these young asset owners—all from out of state—guided me through the neighborhood on a sunny Friday in May. They all loved the city… except for one thing.

“How did you even get here?” a hip (for pensions) 30-something asked me, incredulous. “There’s no Uber anymore!” Cue bitter complaint. New rideshare regulations had recently plunged Austin into the dark days of 2011. The cabbies couldn’t have been happier; the young asset owners, quite the opposite. We toured by foot.

First stop: Texas Teachers. A gauntlet of food trucks had set up in front of Austin’s pension mothership selling Korean tacos, BBQ, and spinach-colored juice (actually, it probably was spinach juice). I saw, for the first time, Austin’s unofficial uniform of short-sleeve dress shirts and full-sleeve tattoos. In the lobby, a tall, 30-something woman stepped out in a wide fedora and skin-tight denim jumpsuit. Deadpan comment: “Do you think Britt has the same one?” 

“At the hospital cafeteria, our equity analysts discovered a whole meal costs like $2.50! They love it—they’re value conscious.”Britt Harris: CIO of Texas Teachers, industry statesman, powerbroker. He is mentor and role model to legions of investment greenhorns. I choose to believe that the denim-onesie wearer is among them.

Harris’ large and famous shop does come second place in one category: Best office. “UTIMCO has the nicest building for sure,” my guides agreed. “It’s in a great area.” Voted “Best New Building” an improbable four years in a row, the Frost Bank Tower houses Morgan Stanley, EY, and the university system’s $36 billion endowment. In the lobby’s café—Houndstooth Coffee—our group’s hippest member fit the scene, wearing skinny pants and a loud bird-print shirt. He’s a Houndstooth regular, and insisted we try “the best Japanese cold brew coffee in the city.”

More into pleated khakis than skinny jeans? My guides shared a secret joint, where anyone wearing actual pants is the best-dressed around. “Lunch at the hospital cafeteria. Our equity analysts discovered a whole meal costs like $2.50! Of course they love it—they’re value conscious.”

Techies have Silicon Valley. London financiers have the Square Mile. Fleet Street and Times Square used to be newspaper central, but they’ve been inherited by investment bankers and panhandlers in cartoon suits, respectively.

Austin’s asset owners have the community. Now it needs a name. A few ideas: #1) Allocator Alley, #2) Portfolio Pit, or my personal favorite, #3) Assets Below LBJ Library—for short, ‘AssBeLBJ’.

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