Mississippi PERS Names New CIO After Seven-Month Search

Retirement system names Robert Clark to manage the $29.6 billion portfolio.

The Mississippi Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) has selected Robert Clark to serve as the pension’s new chief investment officer, succeeding Lorrie Tingle, who managed the $29.6 billion portfolio for 23 years. He assumed the new role February 18.

Clark has more than two decades of experience in financial services, having most recently served for more than seven years as vice president and portfolio manager at Southeastern Trust Company, an independent boutique trust firm serving families across the United States with traditional multi-family office services.

In between Tingle and Clark’s appointments, Charles Nielsen served as interim CIO. After reporting that the fund had generated a 6.87% return for fiscal year 2019, Nielsen noted in PERS’ 2019 comprehensive annual financial report that “the investment environment ahead will be likely to remain a difficult one in which to achieve such levels of performance. Considering this, the focus remains on evaluating how best to position the portfolio to successfully overcome the investment challenges ahead.”

Longer term, the portfolio had three-, five-, and 10-year returns of 10.38%, 7.06%, and 10.53%, respectively. Its one-year return of 6.87% missed the 7.75% return target, but “exceeded the returns of 62% of the system’s peer group comprised of public pension plans with assets greater than $10 billion.”

Clark is expected to “serve our members and the state of Mississippi well with his more than two decades of experience in financial services and investments,” Ray Higgins, executive director at Mississippi PERS, said in a statement.

Prior to his role at Southeastern Trust Company, Clark led strategic planning, accounting, risk management, and capital forecasting functions for startup clean technology companies in the water contamination space at SecureWaters Inc., operating as the company’s chief financial officer.

He also served as vice president, wealth management adviser at BB&T Wealth Management and vice president, wealth services team leader at SunTrust Bank.

Clarks is a CFA charter holder, certified financial planner, and holds an MBA for an integrated management curriculum with a focus on finance, as well as a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the United States Naval Academy.

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