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The Numbers Guys
Brian Johnson, 37
Investment Officer, University of California
Johnson loves real assets. Ex-Wilshire and San Diego County Employees Retirement Association (where he expanded the alternatives program into commodities and other real assets), Johnson thrives on understanding the nature of these often-vague beasts. One challenge that he notes with respect to the asset class is that it's still a relatively new area for many investors and thus it can be difficult to build internal support for the space and determine in which "bucket" to place certain opportunities. Despite occasional skepticism, Johnson is confident that real assets will continue to be an attractive asset class. "Excess global liquidity from government stimulus efforts and the resulting low interest rate environment we are facing should continue to be positive for hard asset prices," he says. Johnson also notes that fundamentals for many commodities are attractive due to compelling supply and demand dynamics. "It is becoming more and more difficult to extract the Earth's resources and the cost to do so continues to rise. At the same time, the world is experiencing significant demand growth from the developing world, particularly China, as their economies become much more commodity intensive," he asserts.
Looking ahead, Johnson says: "Eventually, I'll need to probably take a step back and work across asset classes again," his sights set on a CIO position later in his career. "But it's nice to focus on this asset class for now."
The Numbers Guys: We're not saying they're nerdy...okay we are. Maybe just a little. But let's be clear: This is a good thing. When, in one sense, fund executives can feel themselves interacting with asset managers and servicers that may not have their best interest at heart (think the Goldman Sachs resignation letter in The New York Times, or numerous transition management teams), it pays to have people on staff who can truly parse techno-speak and figure out what is really being pitched. So here's to the nerds.