Name-Dropping by Numbers

Jokes, gin & tonics, and jubilation: the European Innovation Awards attracted the cream of the crop to the plush Savoy Hotel.

By the time Tom Joy, CIO of the Church Commissioners for England, ascended the Savoy Hotel ballroom’s stage for his crowning as Investment Head of the Year, the event had already racked up a few wins.

One: An asset servicing deal struck over roasted guinea fowl.

Two: A near 1:1 ratio of asset owners to managers.

Three: Several exemplary sets of red-wine teeth.

Four: An unplanned and inappropriate joke from European Editor and the evening’s host Elizabeth Pfeuti, which has apparently become a tradition.


The wait staff at the upstairs cocktail bar hadn’t yet funded their children’s educations with the CIO bar tab, but that would come later, as those who attended may or may not remember. For those who couldn’t make it—surely the result of a conflict with the due date of your first-born—let’s back up a bit.

We start at 5.30pm. A member of the CIO staff finds Antony Barker, chief pensions officer for the UK arm of Spanish Bank Santander, quizzing a cloakroom attendant on the whereabouts of the European Innovation Awards. The attendant has not received the memo and is looking blankly back at him. (In Barker’s defence, the Savoy is an absolute warren.)

“You mean these Innovation Awards?” says a CIO team member, brandishing an enormous (yet surprisingly lightweight) placard for said event, “Well come with me, Tony. You know Ian”—McKnight, CIO of the Royal Mail Pension—“don’t you?” “Of course! Hello, mate, long time no see. How are you?”

By 5.45pm, Stefan Dunatov, CIO of the UK’s Coal Pension Trustees, Claudia Kruse, head of corporate governance at Dutch pension manager APG, and Evalinde Eelens, senior investment strategist at PGGM, were being entertained by Kip McDaniel, editor-in-chief of CIO, in the Riverside Room overlooking the Thames.

McDaniel was on his second glass of wine, safe in the knowledge that the European team were taking care of this event, and was already cracking some of his best jokes.

Then came a rush of people who were told to line up for photos—and ended up making their own jokes in a language the photographer did not understand.

The Danes had arrived. Specifically, the CIOs of ATP, Industriens Pension, PensionDanmark, and two portfolio managers from PKA. “We were all on the same plane,” said one. Note to CIO events team: Charter a jet from Copenhagen next year.  

“Getting the 'network working' was the theme of the night, along with having a great celebration.”

On the dot of 6.00pm—the official opening time—Brits began to stream through the door. The Universities Superannuation Scheme, Superannuation Arrangements of the University of London, Railpen, London Pension Funds Authority—all headed for cool, refreshing beverages, while pension funds belonging to ABF, BAA, the BBC, BT, EMI, and PPF chatted over a drink as their hosts for the evening filtered in.

Investors from the Pensions Trust, the Wellcome Trust, and Environment Agency Pension Fund, along with Zurich Insurance and Friends Life, joined the throng, eschewing the 23-degree heat London had fired up that day.

The FTSE 100 was there in the form of Barclays, Centrica, Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury’s pensions; some local authorities made the trip to London, too. Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland were also represented by AP4 and SPK, Elo Insurance, and the CERN and Lombard Odier pension funds, respectively.

In total, nearly 150 senior asset owners, managers, consultants, and other services providers donned their name tags in the name of innovation. No one kept a count of how many gin and tonics were consumed.

At 7.15pm, the Savoy’s master of ceremonies, the aforementioned Ms. Pfeuti, convinced everyone to join her for dinner. Over petit fours, winners took the stage while the also-rans cried into their coffees.

So we arrive at Tom Joy’s moment, marked for perpetuity with the absurdly heavy crystal trophy he then had to lug about.

We were there to celebrate innovation, but also to meet or reacquaint with contacts in the industry. To find a brother (or sister) in arms with whom to chat about smart beta/transition management/how to get your consultant to fall in to line. To find someone to carry out a particular service. Even to find out which of the upcoming conferences the general consensus it was to avoid. (Hint: all of those hosted by our competitors.)

The night drew on. There were more gin and tonics, more photos, and when the Riverside Bar (we moved back upstairs during the last paragraph) called time, some 30 people continued their discussions in the Beaufort Bar—and completely drowned out the jazz trio.

Getting the “network working” was the theme of the night, along with having a great celebration—and we think we achieved it. So, for the good of your professional and personal network (and to have a rather good night out), we hope to see you there next year.

Elizabeth Pfeuti