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The Risk Specialists
Donna Snider, 38
Investment Director, The Kresge Foundation
When Snider left Wall Street to join The Kresge Foundation in 2009, her biggest surprise was the collaboration amongst peer institutions, particularly the willingness to discuss their best ideas. "I know Mark and Randy well," she says, referring to Ford's Baumgartner and Hilton's Kim, respectively. "We have discussed many things—especially risk management—and it's no surprise that by comparing notes, we all make better and more informed decisions." And almost always, they do.
This is particularly helpful to the Chicago Booth graduate, who was recruited from Merrill Lynch's fixed income derivatives desk by Kresge. Snider's hiring was a coup for the Detroit-based organization, which had been building its internal investment capabilities since 2005. Now that the major building and restructuring of the portfolio is complete, the team is again focused on optimizing performance for the long run. However, the current environment makes navigating short-term volatility critical for continued success, Snider says. "Derivatives are an important tool for altering asset -allocation and executing risk management," she says. "As long term investors, our capital tends to be invested in vehicles with less liquidity. Derivatives provide us with a tool to be more nimble and better control the potential outcomes."
The Risk Specialists: A group uniquely focused on risk management post-2008, the Risk Specialists, when spoken to often speak in soft tones, as if they're scared the markets will hear them and confirm their worst fears. "Things all correlated to one," they whisper. Traditional asset allocation did nothing to stop massive drawdowns. Out of these concerns, this group—perhaps above all others—is pioneering new thinking around how asset owners of all stripes must respond to the revelation of past risk management failures.