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American Public Plan All-Stars
Aeisha Mastagni, 36
Investment Officer, California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS)
Mastagni has chutzpah. After graduating from Sacramento State and working a couple of sales-based jobs, she realized it was time for a change. Wanting to get into the investing business yet without any firsthand experience in the field, she did not mope or lament over a tough job market. Instead, she marched into the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) after applying online for a job there and sweetly, politely, and -courageously asked to speak with the secretary for the investment office. She ended up in a conference room with Ted White, a portfolio manager for the fund's corporate governance unit at the time. The rest is history. "Both of my parents are California state workers so I knew the cumbersome process of being hired by the state. I knew if I didn't get myself in front of someone, I wouldn't get the position because it doesn't come across on a piece on paper," Mastagni says.
Today, after working at CalPERS for six years, Mastagni is on the investment team at CalSTRS with a focus in corporate governance. "For me, it's the perfect balance between doing the analytical side and the policy and communication side," she says, adding that she recently wrote individual letters to over 100 companies about why the fund voted against their say-on-pay. "The response we got was extraordinary." In February, for example, CalSTRS sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to rethink the all-male composition of his new board. "We're a global world now. There needs to be more than just white males on boards," she says. aiCIO agrees.
American Public Plan All-Stars: These five are riding—or perhaps leading is a more accurate word?—the secular wave of public plan investing: a massive alternative investments ramp-up. With more capital to put to work than God, the American public pension system's shift toward more sophisticated asset allocation will alter the asset management business in a way unseen before. Out is long-only active equity. In are hedge funds, private equity, and more. These five, if nothing else, should expect their phones to be ringing non-stop for, oh, the next 15 years.