Each year, a NextGen of the Year award is given by this media brand, CIO, after a fierce hotseat competition. The winner is voted on by chief investment officers and attendees at our Influential Investor’s Forum in December and presented at our Innovation Awards gala that evening after a select, innovative group of NextGens from our summer series compete in a rounds of surprise (yet fun, we hope) questions. 2019/2020’s NextGen of the Year title was won by Elizabeth Jourdan, deputy chief investment officer at Mercy, a Missouri-based health care system with $2.7 billion in assets under management. At the fund, she is responsible for leading the investment team in strategic asset allocation, manager research and due diligence, and socially responsible investment (SRI) initiatives.
Jourdan and other panelists were interviewed on stage by last year’s winner, Chad Myhre (who was offered his position of director of investment at the Heinz Family Office after winning the 2018/19 title), to convey their thinking on the markets, portfolios, as well as their own personal experiences to the audience. The crowd then elected the victor by individual ballots that were tallied and announced at the gala by Scott Williamson, head of the BlackRock iShares US Asset Owner business development team.
“The co-panelists were extremely impressive,” Jourdan told CIO following the event. “Anytime that you are on the hot seat in front of a large audience who then vote, of course it’s a little stressful. But everyone handled it with poise and grace. I was really honored to be on stage with an outstanding group of investors and peers.”
“I have to give a big thank you to Tony Waskiewicz, Mercy’s former CIO and John Gauthier, former CIO at Allied World. Both John and Tony have been instrumental in advancing my career.”
Jourdan said Myhre’s questions were extremely thoughtful. “The most reflective question he posed to me was: ‘What did you think you knew, but got wrong?
“After I made a joke about not initially liking whiskey – I talked about Mercy’s evolution in socially responsible investments. I have really learned a lot as we’ve built out our SRI initiative, and have changed my perspective over time,” Jourdan said.
Jourdan’s work in socially responsible investing has had an impact on her own personal life, she shared. “In our research on responsible investment, I became aware that of all of the factors that negatively impact our environment, meat production is one of the highest,” Jourdan said. “In fact its’ carbon footprint is higher than cars and is widely theorized to be a major contributor to the Holocene extinction. It was a big impetus for becoming a vegetarian.”
Another example of research and data Jourdan found interesting was finding a correlation between team diversity and financial outperformance. “There have been plenty of academic studies on the impact that diversity of thought has on a company’s bottom line. Increasing diversity on your board and in senior management is not just a nice thing to do, but it is also an important thing to do from a financial perspective, because data shows that it can materially improve performance. I think that’s why we’ve seen diversity efforts across the investment industry increase. Hopefully that trend continues.”
Jourdan and her colleagues at Mercy in the past have adjusted to the difficult economic themes trending in today’s markets. “The current economic environment, with low interest rates and mediocre growth globally, makes it a difficult period to invest. I do think there are long term trends we’re excited about: changing demographics, technology, foreign markets like Asia (including China, where those two factors materially come into play). There are pockets of opportunities that a nimble investor can access, and I love scouring the world for those ideas.”
2019’s NextGens continued their successes after being honored last year. Ryan Bailey moved from head of investments at Children’s Health to being a managing partner and founder at Pacenote Capital; Benjamin Frede was promoted to senior portfolio manager – private equity and private credit at the Public School & Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri; Christie Hamilton moved to head of investments from investment director at Children’s Health; Thomas Lefler transitioned from director of absolute return at Raytheon to CIO at Eagle Advisors; Ruchit Shah was promoted to acting CIO at the Texas Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company; and Terence Thompson departed his position as investment manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona to work as a director of investments at a single family office.
Get your nominations ready, this year’s call for NextGens will be launching in a few weeks.