WSIB CIO Gary Bruebaker to Retire

After 18 years at the Washington State Investment Board, Bruebaker is trading building good investment returns for other passions such as water sports and vintage cars.

Gary Bruebaker

Washington State Investment Board Chief Investment Officer Gary Bruebaker is retiring at the end of 2019, after 40 years in the investment business, details a press release from the state investment organization.

Bruebaker has served as CIO for 18 years, joining WSIB in 2001. He was considered instrumental in building up the $104 billion pension plan’s private equity and real estate asset classes to almost 40% of the system’s assets under management, a figure that tops all major US pension plans.

Bruebaker also helped build WSIB’s unique approach to real estate investing. Its $18.6 billion real estate portfolio is in effect a direct investment program. WSIB partners with other firms around the world to manage the real estate assets but retains ownership stakes.

While other pension plans also have some direct ownership of real estate assets, it is almost always more limited. The WSIB is unique in that the direct investing is the only approach it uses in its real estate program.

The press release said WSIB has hired executive recruiting firm Hendrick & Struggles and will use its associate, Lyndon Taylor, to conduct an industry-wide recruiting effort.

“Gary’s investment leadership is not something that anyone simply replaces,” said Theresa Whitmarsh, WSIB executive director, in a press release. “His balance of steadfast discipline, attention to detail, and yet openness to discussing new ideas, are qualities we want to reinvent in our next version of leadership.”

Bruebaker said in the press release his final day will be December 20, 2019, although he will remain available to the WSIB staff during early 2020 in support of transitioning to a new CIO.

Prior to joining the WSIB, Bruebaker served as the deputy state treasurer for the Oregon State Treasury. In that job, he developed and implemented policy, practices, and performance measures for the financial infrastructure of the State of Oregon. He also served as a member of the Oregon Short-Term Fund Board, the Oregon Municipal Debt Advisory Commission, and the Private Activity Bond Committee.

Bruebaker in the press release said he anticipates spending more time with his family along with some non-professional pursuits involving water sports, outdoor activities, and his passion for vintage cars.

“I’ve been honored to serve our retirement beneficiaries and other stakeholders of the WSIB,” said Bruebaker in a brief statement. “I truly am privileged to have worked for the past 18 years with what I consider the best investment board and the absolute best group of employees I could have imagined.”

It may not be easy filling Bruebaker’s shoes, given that the financial performance of the pension plan under his tenure. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year ending June 30, WSIB posted investment returns of 10.04%, net of fees, outpacing the returns of other large public pension plans in the US, shows data analyzed by CIO. The one-year numbers were not a fluke. WISB, for the 10-year period ending March 31, 2019, earned an average annual return of 10.5%, beating other large US pension plans.

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