Longtime Washington State Investment Board (WSIB) Executive Director Theresa Whitmarsh is retiring at the end of 2021.
Whitmarsh, who has served in WSIB’s top spot for the past 12 years, disclosed her decision to leave WSIB at the board’s May 20 meeting.
Her retirement comes after WSIB’s longtime CIO Gary Bruebaker retired at the end of 2019. He had worked in the investment business for 40 years and spent 18 years as the pension system’s CIO.
Bruebaker was replaced by Allyson Tucker at the beginning of 2020. She had previously been in charge of the organization’s risk management and asset allocation team.
WSIB Board Chairman Joel Sacks said an executive search firm has been hired to find a replacement for Whitmarsh. He did not offer an exact timetable for finding a replacement.
“Our goal is to put in place a strong and seamless transition that fully respects the investment process and proven capabilities of this organization,” Sacks told his fellow board members. “No one can expect full replacement of Theresa’s exemplary leadership. Instead, we expect our next leader will bring their own distinct skills and vision to build a future based on what has been accomplished so well.”
Whitmarsh was hired in 2003 as WSIB’s chief operating officer. She served in that role until WSIB’s then-Executive Director Joe Dear left to take the top position at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) in 2009.
“The WSIB has been a job of a lifetime and a professional privilege to help lead one of the finest mission‐focused investment groups in our industry,” Whitmarsh said at the meeting. “I am humbled every day by our board’s dedication and our staff’s capabilities. Now it’s time for me to pass this stewardship role to a new leader so that I can enjoy my time as a beneficiary of Washington state’s top‐ranked retirement system.”
The pension system has $134.4 billion in assets as of March 31.
WSIB has a large allocation to private market funds. More than 20% of its assets are invested in the private equity asset class and more than 15% are invested in the real estate asset class. Equities only make up about 36% of the fund’s assets.
The investment board also does not use external real estate managers in the traditional sense. It funds captive real estate managers who set up separate corporations and work exclusively on running the pension system’s global real estate portfolio.
The Washington State Investment Board has had one of the most successful investment records among the largest pension plans in the US over the past decade. As of Dec. 31, its one-year returns were 12.43%, its three-year returns were 9.7%, its five-year results were 10.86%, and its 10-year results were 9.54%.
Whitmarsh is well known in the institutional investor community. She served from 2016 to 2017 as chair of the Council of Institutional Investors. In addition, she is vice chair of the advisory board serving the Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership. She is past chair of the Pacific Pension & Investment Institute and has served as a director with the International Centre for Penson Management.