The Allocator - Apr 13 - SF & FL | With Intelligence

San Francisco snaps up Florida deputy as CIO

Alison Romano takes helm at $35bn plan amid SBA’s halt on China investments

Gabby Stranieri
8 APR 2022

The San Francisco City & County Employees Retirement System has snapped up Alison Romano, deputy CIO of the Florida State Board of Administration, as its new CIO and CEO.

Romano will replace acting executive director Jay Huish to oversee the administration and investment of San Francisco’s $35bn pension plan, and Kurt Braitberg, who has been serving as interim CIO since July.

Braitberg will return to his previous position as managing director for public markets after Romano begins her role at the pension, a spokesperson for San Francisco confirmed to With Intelligence.

Romano’s departure from Florida SBA, which oversees the state’s $200bn pension fund, comes after a 13-year tenure. As deputy CIO, Romano was responsible for investment oversight across all asset classes, including its 9.6% or $19.2bn allocation to strategic investments, which includes hedge funds strategies.

San Francisco, meanwhile, dedicates 10% or $3.7bn to absolute return, as of December 2021, on par with its target weight. Notably, some 17.8% of the investments were with China-oriented managers, as of June figures when the data was last available.

How this could be impacted by Romano’s appointment remains to be seen: Florida SBA recently announced a halt to new China-related investments, citing downside risk due to the government crackdown on high-tech and for-profit sectors, among other concerns.

“SFERS does not have a comment about impacts to China-related investments at this time,” a representative told With Intelligence.

Romano’s departure from Florida comes as the system is still seeking a permanent replacement for its top job. Lamar Taylor has been serving as interim CIO at the fund since former chief Ash Williams stepped down in September.

“Over the last 13 years at the Florida SBA, I have enjoyed investing and managing retirement assets for the benefit of those who have dedicated their lives to public service. … I am thrilled to join and lead an innovative and forward-looking team at SFERS that has delivered nationally recognized investment performance on behalf of their members,” said Romano.

Representatives for Florida SBA did not immediately return a request for comment.

The article was updated on April 11, 2022 with San Francisco’s reply to a request for comment.