Swiss Re, Mercer UK Name New CIOs

The new investment chiefs for both firms are in-house hires.

Amid a bevy of CIOs shuffling among institutional investment firms, insurance giant Swiss Re and professional services firm Mercer UK have bucked the trend, tapping new CIOs from in-house.

The Swiss Re Group named Velina Peneva group CIO and member of its group executive committee, effective April 1. She will succeed Guido Fürer, who will retire after 25 years at the firm. [Source]

Peneva, who joined Swiss Re in 2017 as head of private equity, is currently co-head of client solutions and analytics in Swiss Re’s asset management division. Before Swiss Re, Peneva worked at management consulting firm Bain & Company for nearly 19 years, joining as a consultant and then being promoted to manager in 2006 and partner in 2011. She earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, following a B.A. in economics and computer science earned from Wellesley College. [LinkedIn]

“With Velina Peneva, we’ve been able to find a capable internal candidate to lead our asset management unit forward,” Swiss Re Group CEO Christian Mumenthaler said in a statement. “Velina has a very strong track record both within and outside Swiss Re. She brings a combination of deep financial market expertise, strategic and investment skills, proven leadership capabilities and a well-established industry network.”

Meanwhile, Mercer UK announced James Lewis as its new CIO, effective January 1. Lewis was most recently the firm’s head of investment strategy, leading the design and implementation of investment strategies for fiduciary management clients.

Lewis has begun leading and overseeing Mercer’s investment solutions and investment strategy for its investment propositions in the UK market. He has also joined the firm’s UK Investment and European and Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa CIO leadership teams. [Source]

Lewis joined Mercer Investments in London in 2010, first as a senior investment consultant; then as an investment strategist and team manager in fiduciary fiduciary management; and then as U.K. head of investment strategy in fiduciary management. [LinkedIn]

“Recent market events have emphasized the importance of robust governance and effective implementation frameworks to respond effectively to investment opportunities and market challenge,” Lewis said in a statement. “We have a hugely talented investment team dedicated to providing solutions and advice to improve investment outcomes for our clients.”

The hires are a break from a recent trend of institutional investment firms luring CIOs from outside the company. In January alone, the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System hired Benjamin Cotton, senior managing director at the United Auto Workers’ Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, as its new CIO; TIAA CIO Nicholas Liolis announced he is stepping down after nearly eight years to become CIO of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America; and the Museum of Modern Art named Lou Fernandes, managing director of investments for New York University’s endowment, as its new CIO.

Last month, the State of Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System hired as its new CIO Kristin Varela, who had been deputy CIO of the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico.


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