The Gravity of Power

Managing Editor Sage Um on what makes a truly powerful allocator.

This time of year is always tricky for the CIO staff. Emails start trickling in from asset owners subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) trying to find out if they’ve made our Power 100 list. “Am I top half or bottom half?” “I should be at least five places higher than last year.” “Am I above or below Chris Ailman?” (Answer: You’re probably below.)

So when ranking the 100 most influential players of the asset-owning world, we feel the pressure to select those who really deserve the recognition. Because at the end of the day, the Power 100 list matters. 

These individuals at the top of the world’s largest funds don’t just deploy nearly $10 trillion in assets. They are responsible for the future well-being of the employees, retirees, and students who benefit from these funds. They recognize this and embrace it, through implementing innovative ideas, sharing and improving on those ideas with their peers, and encouraging new allocators to take up the baton. Having the scale to make a difference and sticking around to see things through are also both important.

Hence, our five power factors: Innovation, collaboration, talent development, fund size, and tenure.

This year, we also asked the aforementioned Chris Ailman—California State Teachers’ Retirement System CIO and #4 on the 2016 Power 100—to put our list into perspective. If CIO and the Power 100 list existed 40 years ago, who would be vying for a place? Who are the pioneers who paved the way to today’s excellence in investing innovation? 

Ailman names Yale’s David Swensen (also #1 on our list), Verizon’s John Carroll, the Oregon public pension fund’s Dan Smith, and APG’s Angelien Kemna among those who deserve a place in the Power 100 Hall of Fame. “We owe it to our peers of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and the ‘00s to remember their contributions and efforts,” he writes. 

Our goal at CIO is the same—to remember, recognize, and applaud those who truly grasp the gravity of their power as allocators.

Finally, to those who aren’t on the list: You’re not powerless. But maybe we should have lunch to discuss next year’s list.