NAIC Provides Testimony at New Jersey Legislative Hearing on use of Diverse Managers

In an effort to enhance the diversity practices within the State of New Jersey’s public retirement plans, Robert L. Greene, President & Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC), provided testimony at a hearing for the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity on November 12th in Trenton.

The objective of the hearing, called by Democratic state Senator Ronald Rice and Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly was to better understand what steps the state could take to increase its diverse manager pool and what options were available. Greene’s statement to the committee focused on how the state could increase its exposure with high-performing diverse investment management firms. Other testimony came from Hester Agudosi, Chief Diversity Officer, New Jersey Office of Diversity and Inclusion; and John Harmon, Founder, President, and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

While public pension plans in neighboring New York have gained ground on the diversity and inclusion front, the New Jersey Division of Investment (DOI) has lagged behind the Empire State in that regard. This is something the state legislators, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, is looking to change. Greene, who served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Virginia Retirement System, brought added insight to the conversation, with his understanding of the challenges and pressures facing plan decision-makers.

Greene’s statement to the Joint Committee focused on three areas:

  • Pension plans that embrace diversity are also demonstrating performance – not social justice, or inclusion for the sake of inclusion. Further, it’s the fiduciary responsibility of plan board members to identify the best talent in the marketplace, and despite performing at a very high level, there remain diverse asset managers who are unable to land meetings investment mandates.
  • Rigorous studies by several different sources conclude that managers of color are performing at par, and often better than, traditional non-diverse managers. However, that message has yet to reach many CIOs and investment committee board members and pension trustees.
  • When leadership at retirement plans commit to diversity and inclusion, their plans benefit, citing the State of Illinois, Dallas Teachers, the Virginia Retirement System, the City of New York, Exelon, McDonald’s, and such foundations as Ford, Knight and Kresge as examples.

This is NAIC’s second recent meeting in the Garden State, having held an Institutional Investor Roadshow in Trenton a month prior where NAIC member firms met with the New Jersey State Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio, senior staff of the DOI as well as members of the New Jersey State Investment Policy Committee and State Investment Council.

Greene says the hearing with the Joint Committee was a great first step, adding that the next steps are for the NAIC to continue working with the state’s Director of Investments to share information on the other forms of pro-diversity legislation being utilized around the country, and ensure that that the Director’s office gets to meet and with as many diverse managers as possible across all asset classes.

“It was an outstanding hearing from my perspective because it was wide-ranging and action-oriented in its focus and really got to the issues that matter,” recalls Greene. “What can be done to increase the diversity of the managers the state uses, what can be done to increase the capital allocated to diverse managers, as well as what is needed from a legislative standpoint.”