CIO Announces Consultant of the Year Finalists

Winner to be announced during December 7 awards gala following CIO’s Influential Investors forum.

CIO has announced its finalists for Consultant of the Year, a special category announced during CIO’s Innovation Awards, which honor leading asset owners and asset managers. The eighth annual gala will be held at the New York Public Library on December 7, following CIO’s Influential Investors forum.

Nominations for Consultant of the Year were made by a network of their peers, who represent more than $1.2 trillion in assets under management. We also asked our chief investment officer readers which consultants had honestly offered them something of true value that fit their investment needs over the long term.

Finalists were selected following a two-month nomination period, which produced hundreds of entries. Our shortlist was finalized by the CIO editorial team and our advisory board of asset owners: Jagdeep Singh Bachher of University of California, Tim Barrett of Texas Tech University System, Robert Hunkeler of International Paper, Jacque Millard of Intermountain Healthcare, Mark Schmid of the University of Chicago, and Robert “Vince” Smith of the New Mexico State Investment Council.

The finalists are:

Christopher Levell, partner, client strategy, NEPC

Levell began his consulting career in 1987, and joined NEPC in 2005 as the firm’s first senior actuarial hire. With his background as an actuary, Levell helps clients with strategic decisions on the coordination of asset allocation with plan design, contributions, and financial statements. He has assisted clients, including the state of Wisconsin, on more than 250 asset-liability studies. He led the development of risk budgeting, scenario forecasting, and liquidity analysis at NEPC.

Prior to joining NEPC, Levell was a principal with Mercer Investment Consulting, serving as a lead consultant as well as an asset-liability project consultant. In 1997, he was charged with developing Mercer’s US asset-liability modeling capability. Levell holds a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is an Associate of the Society of Actuaries, and a Fellow of the Conference of Actuaries. In addition, he holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) designations, and is a member of the Boston Security Analysts Society. 

Brett Minarik, senior portfolio advisor, Aksia

Minarik’s primarily role involves working with some 14 institutional investors, including Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System in Harrisburg, advising them on the management of their hedge fund programs and often acting as an extension of their internal staff. Upon joining Aksia in 2010, he quickly became a strong team member, able to pull together strategies and knowledge from Aksia’s research specialists and various subject-matter experts. Whether projects involve structured credit, fundamental equity, quant equity, or developed markets macro, Minarik routinely works with clients to ensure the disparate pieces of an alternatives portfolio fit together to achieve each client’s unique goals.

Minarik also helped to develop Aksia’s client-facing research platform, often basing the tools, features, and outputs on the projects and special requests completed for clients over the years. Prior to joining Aksia, he was the client service manager for the boutique firm Carlsbad Wealth Advisory Group. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the George Argyros School of Business at Chapman University.


Rich Nuzum, wealth leader, growth markets region, Mercer

 Nuzum is responsible for building Mercer’s wealth business in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Using acumen acquired from 25 years at Mercer, including living and working 11 years in Asia, Nuzum matches projects in emerging markets to investors. Earlier in his career, Nuzum helped launch Mercer Investments in Asia during the 1990s, and was an early proponent of licensing Mercer’s global manager research to large institutional investors with in-house staff through MercerInsight, which now has more than 150 subscribers representing more than $6 trillion in assets. Nuzum  led the launch of MercerFundWatch.com, and earlier in his career, also helped launch Mercer’s Dynamic De-Risking Solution and Pension Risk Exchange.  He was asked in 2008 to lead Mercer’s OCIO business globally, which has grown from $20 billion AUDM when Nuzum took the helm, to more than $213 billion today. 

Nuzum has an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, studied international economics under a Monbusho Fellowship at the University of Tokyo, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematical Economic Analysis from Rice University.

Neil Rue, managing director, Pension Consulting Alliance

Rue joined Pension Consulting Alliance in 1991, and is the lead consultant to several large state and municipal funds. He assists in consulting to several of the largest state pension funds in the United States, including Hawaii ERS, CalSTRS, Washington SIB, and Minnesota SBI, among others. Over the past several years, Rue has been instrumental in introducing PCA’s clients to purpose-driven/risk-oriented policy concepts, developing the Crisis Risk Offset concept, and implementing options-based investment strategies.

Rue has 29 years in the investment consulting business, and prior to PCA, spent seven years at the Frank Russell Company (now Russell Investments) in several product development and research-oriented capacities. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst, and received his bachelor’s and MBA degrees from the University of Washington. 

The goal of the CIO Innovation Awards is to highlight the truly innovative approaches to asset owning and asset management, separating the merely different from the meaningful. As a result, over the past seven years, CIO has honored an ever-growing list of the world’s most innovative thinkers on both sides of the business. 

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