CalSTRS Deputy CIO To Retire After 27-Year Run

Michelle Cunningham was also the fund’s first internal investment officer.

After 35 years in the investment field, California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) Deputy CIO Michelle Cunningham is retiring.

Cunningham—CalSTRS’s first internal investment officer—spent 27 years with the fund, beginning in 1991 as an investment officer for fixed incomes. In this role, she managed various portfolios, including mortgage-backed, US Treasury, foreign currency, and securities lending. CalSTRS’s total fund value was $35 billion at the time. It is currently valued at $208.7 billion, the largest educator-only pension fund in the world.

In 1997, she was promoted to director of fixed income, then again in 2012 to deputy CIO, where she oversaw all asset management activities and directed the asset class directors team.

“There has been enormous change in the investment industry over the last quarter decade, and CalSTRS staff, members and I have been the beneficiaries of Michelle’s selfless efforts to navigate the change. Underneath her soft-spoken, humble demeanor, she’s a commanding force to reckon with; this combination of traits defined her leadership style. She’s well-respected, and our staff naturally want to do their best for her. She has been instrumental at helping us achieve superior returns,” CalSTRS CIO Christopher J. Ailman said in a statement. “For me personally, she has been a confidante and true partner in managing this diverse staff and complex portfolio. Michelle will be greatly missed and very difficult to replace.”

CalSTRS did not immediately name a replacement.

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