Ex-CalPERS exec returns as pension’s new CIO

After spending three years at China’s foreign exchange regulatory agency, Yu Ben Meng is succeeding Ted Eliopoulos.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has hired Yu Ben Meng as chief investment officer, four months after Ted Eliopoulos said he would be stepping down from the $360 billion pension fund.

Meng, a US citizen born in China, worked at CalPERS for seven years, his last role being that of investment director of asset allocation. He left the pension fund in 2015 and has since served as deputy CIO at China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

“We are pleased to welcome Ben back to CalPERS,” Marcie Frost, the pension’s chief executive, said. “During his time with CalPERS, Ben acquired a deep understanding of the asset and liability management process that has become so important to achieving our goals.”

Eliopoulos, who has spent eight years as CIO, announced in May he was leaving to relocate to New York for family reasons. He agreed to stay on until the end of the year to help the transition.

Meng will step into the position at the tail-end of Eliopoulos’s Vision 2020 strategy, which was implemented to reduce the portfolio’s complexity, cut fees and better manage risk. Meng will oversee an office of nearly 400 employees and manage investment policies, risk management, corporate governance and ESG strategies, the pension fund said.

CalPERS published the most recent results of Eliopoulos’s strategy in June, reporting that its assets had grown from $323 billion to $351 billion in the 2017-18 fiscal year ending on 30 June. While an 8.6 percent net return for its total portfolio was six percentage points below its benchmark index, CalPERS’ infrastructure portfolio led all other asset classes with a 20.6 percent net return.

Overall, real assets returned 8 percent, while real estate generated a 6.8 percent return and forestland 1.9 percent.

As of 31 July, the pension fund’s total portfolio stood at $360.07 billion with $4.35 billion, or 1.2 percent of total AUM, allocated to infrastructure.

Meng’s hire caps a leadership shakeup at the largest US public pension fund over the last two years. On the same day Eliopoulos announced his departure, Elisabeth Bourqui was starting as CalPERS’ new chief operating investment officer, a position that had been vacant since January.

Last year, chief financial officer Cheryl Eason left the pension for a senior position at her alma mater, Royal Roads University, and Real Desrochers, managing investment director for private equity, left to join CITIC Private Equity Funds Management.