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American Public Plan All-Stars
Natalie Jenkins Sorrell, 38
Investment Officer, Dallas Employees' Retirement System
Speaking with Sorrell is a metaphor-rich experience. On picking managers: "This is not dating, this is marriage. We have $3 billion, and only 20 managers. We don't believe in small slices of the pie. We want to be significant to the manager, we want them to pick up the phone when we call. So it's marriage. When we sign, that's how I think about it. Dating is the due diligence—we're metaphorically having a drink. But when we sign a contract, it's marriage." Furthermore, on this search: "[Executive Director] Cheryl Alston says we are trying to uncover the gems. Our goal is to uncover them before they're stars. We want to get them while they're in Nashville, not on American Idol." And once they've been picked: "We want all the managers rowing in the same direction. What happens if you're in a boat and people are rowing in different directions? You flip. So we want them all on the same page. We don't want cowboys, no pun intended."
Perhaps this plethora of imagery springs from a similar abundance of experience. Sorrell, a native of the Bronx and New Jersey, ex-JP Morgan, ex-GE Capital, ex-McGraw Hill, and Wharton alum, now finds herself in Dallas alongside Alston and 18 others tasked with the retirement security of thousands. However, the current output of this small team's work—as well as Dallas' commitment to its retirement system, of course—needs no metaphor at all: the plan is 92% funded at a time when the average American public pension is nearly 20% below that figure.
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.