Why JPM Has Hired Ash Williams, CIO Extraordinaire

After leaving Florida SBA six months ago, the celebrated asset allocator lends his expertise to Wall Street.

Art by Nigel Buchanan

Ashbel “Ash” Williams, former CIO of the Florida State Board of Administration, is headed for Wall Street. He has worked there before. And he is a master institutional investor. Thus, he is a prize catch for a storied investment powerhouse.

The gentlemanly, bow-tie-wearing Williams turned in a spectacular investing record at the SBA’s helm—and now he is joining J. P. Morgan Asset Management in the part-time role of vice chair for asset management.

At the $250 billion SBA, which manages money for the state’s pension plan and other Sunshine State bodies, he posted a yearly average return of 10.3%. In the fiscal year before his retirement last September, he clocked an impressive 28.7%. And he accomplished all this after taking the tiller at an inauspicious momentthe 2008 financial crisis. In his time as CIO, he doubled the SBA’s size.

He expanded investments in equity, credit, real estate, public and private markets, and geographic and emerging markets, as well as alternative investments, such as venture capital.

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Before his tenure heading the SBA, Williams had an extensive career in private investment firms, namely as president and CEO of Schroders Capital Management and managing director at Fir Tree Partners. Before then, he served almost five years as executive director at the SBA.

Williams has been one of the most celebrated CIOs in the nation. He has been recognized by this publication with a Lifetime Achievement Award, an Industry Innovation award for Public Defined Benefit Plans above $100 billion, and as CIO of the Year in 2019. He also is former chair of the Council of Institutional Investors.

At JPM, according to the job announcement, he will “work alongside JP Morgan’s team of client advisers, engaging with investors to deliver thought leadership and investment insights that can help clients achieve their investment objectives.” He will continue to be based in Tallahassee, Florida.

He has wide purview in his new job. J.P. Morgan handles 80% of U.S. institutional investors, according to the firm.

“The investment landscape for institutional investors is very complex and I’m excited to share the insights I’ve gained on investment strategy, asset allocation, portfolio construction and other topics with J. P. Morgan’s teams and their clients,” said Williams in a statement.  “There is no time like the present to tackle and solve the problems we are facing.”

Williams will report to Keith Cahill, the firm’s head of North America institutional. “Institutional investors face a particularly challenging environment today, with long-term return expectations declining, inflation increasing, complex geopolitical issues, and the specter of continued central bank tightening,” Cahill said in a statement.

Related Stories:

Ashbel “Ash” Williams, CIO of Florida SBA, to Retire in September

Ash Williams Named CIO of the Year at Innovation Awards Gala

Ash Williams to Chair Council of Institutional Investors Board

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