Richelle Sugiyama Investment Officer,
Idaho Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho
Richelle Sugiyama

“Richelle has proven to be one of the outstanding investment professionals not only in the U.S., but also worldwide. With PERSI, as one of two (I am the other), her familiarity and ability with our investment program cannot be replicated, including her service as acting deputy executive director a few years ago. She has a demonstrated ease and completeness of interactions with all of PERSI’s investment operations and personnel, including consultants, managers, service providers and internal PERSI staff.

Her statewide investment reputation and experience is unimpeachable—as the long-serving vice chair of the State Endowment Fund Investment Board (after serving as the acting investment manager of the EFIB in the early 2000s) and her position on the Treasurer’s Investment Advisory Board (both positions nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate) affirm. She also is active in other state organizations, such as the State Board of Education Investment Advisory Board, the Boise State Foundation, the St. Luke’s investment committee, and the Idaho Community Foundation.

Her national and global reputation is also evident—as her service as chair of the investment committee of the IEEE, her board service with the Pacific Pension Institute and her board responsibilities as a director of both the National Association of State Investment Officers and the National Association of State Investment Professionals attest. These are but some highlights of Richelle’s abilities and service to the investment community.”

—Bob Maynard, CIO, Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho

The CIO Editorial Team shared a dozen questions with all of our NextGen nominees and asked them each to pick six to answer. Their answers informed our decision to include them as a NextGen. Below are the answers from Richelle Sugiyama.

CIO: How are you dealing with rising inflation and interest rates?

Sugiyama: By sticking to our long-term asset allocation target, consistent with our investment philosophy.

CIO: How will the pandemic ultimately change the economic/financial world?

Sugiyama: I believe the pandemic accelerated the use and applications of technology/AI globally and has changed the economic/financial world in at least three ways. First, it has forced institutions to reassess the work-from-home model across all industries. More specific to financial institutions, this means increasing efficiencies through automation and assessing whether their structures are built to be pull-outs of the larger organization or if they require at least a certain amount of time working in the office to collaborate with other teams. Second, we experienced the downside of globalization; specifically, the dependency on supply chains. We’re still seeing this play out in businesses globally and across all sectors, and I expect its impact will also be felt within our financial institutions, ensuring they’re able to operate independently. And last, the pandemic brought about the Great Resignation in the institutional investing world, and we’re experiencing significant turnover in CIO and ED positions across many plan sponsor organizations. As the new generation takes over, it will be interesting to see if current investment strategies/structures can be maintained and/or what, if any, changes are made.

CIO: What asset class or investment troubles you most right now—and why?

Sugiyama: Although not an asset class or investment, per se, it’s troubling that many alternative asset classes are being marketed and/or pursued in the name of ‘diversification.’ 

CIO: What investing decision have you made for your organization that you’re most proud of?

Sugiyama: Of all the investing decisions I’ve been responsible for, I’m most proud of the manager selections we’ve made. We don’t often search for managers, but when we do, we seek managers that tend to be overlooked and/or building their business. It’s extremely rewarding to see the people/firms with whom we build long-term relationships build their business and do well in the industry. 

CIO: Which asset manager (exclusive of their firm) has most influenced your growth as an institutional asset manager?

Sugiyama: Bob Maynard, my boss and CIO of PERSI, has most influenced my growth as an institutional asset manager. He has allowed me to lead projects, engages an open dialogue about all issues and continually encourages me to serve on other investment committees and boards. 

Leading projects like manager searches has broadened my knowledge of industry players and enabled me to identify manager attributes I tend to gravitate toward. Engaging in an open dialogue about any and all issues has allowed me to voice my issues and concerns, debate when necessary and come out with a better perspective and broader understanding. And Bob has continually encouraged me to serve on other investment committees and boards. Doing so has allowed me to see how other institutions/funds do things, become familiarized with the issues facing these various organizations and be able to communicate with a broad array of people and personalities from different backgrounds. 

CIO: What new skills do you think allocators need to be leaders in the field in the coming decade?

Sugiyama: Well, it’s not a new skill; I believe allocators who want to be leaders in this field need to have effective communication skills, most notably listening and understanding. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always been a generalist, so I’ve always had the opportunity to see how options/recommendations are weighed and how everything fits together. Having a broader perspective and understanding can be difficult to attain if you’re working in one particular area or silo, and don’t have the opportunity to move or see outside of that. So whenever I have the opportunity to do so, I always encourage peers to step outside of their comfort zone, to see the bigger picture. 

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