Rhode Island launches new asset class, names CIO

The state's Treasury has appointed a banker as its first debt manager and tapped a former exec of the University of Connecticut’s endowment as interim investment chief.

Senior banker Francis Quinn will serve as the State of Rhode Island’s first debt manager, the Providence-based state treasury said in a statement on Tuesday.

A seasoned financial services executive, Quinn brings more than 30 years of experience in public finance to the newly created role. Working for a number of investment banks throughout his career, he has been responsible for spearheading banking efforts for general obligation, lease revenue, surface transportation, aviation, public power, water and wastewater and higher education projects.

In his new role, Quinn “will work every day to strengthen the oversight of debt issued by municipalities and quasi-public agencies as well as the state,” General Treasurer Seth Magaziner said.

It was unclear whether the state treasury, which administers and manages investments on behalf of the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island under the direction of the State Investment Commission, would also invest in private debt. A spokesperson had not responded by press time.

Quinn joins the state treasury from The Williams Capital Group in New York, where he managed the firm’s public finance relationships with the states of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. He also co-managed the firm’s relationship with the California State Treasurer’s Office.

The Office of the General Treasurer also announced that it had selected Tim Nguyen, until recently chief investment officer of the University of Connecticut’s endowment, to serve as interim CIO. The appointment follows the departure of Anne-Marie Fink, who will be stepping down next month to join the private sector.

Nguyen comes to the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island with “more than 24 years of experience in the world of finance,” Magaziner said. 

As of 30 April 2016, ESRI had $7.5 billion in assets under management. Of the total, 3.1 percent or $223.6 million has been committed to infrastructure funds. The treasury’s target allocation for the asset class is 5 percent, split between private infrastructure (3 percent) and master limited partnerships (2 percent).

According to Infrastructure Investor Research & Analytics, the portfolio primarily consists of fund investments in the energy and renewables sectors.