Permanent Fund close to getting new CIO

Previous chief investment officer rankled some legislators by not moving to Juneau

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation is closing in on hiring a new chief investment officer.

 

The top two candidates for the CIO position appear to be Maria Tsu of Anchorage and Jay Willoughby of New Jersey, though APFC Executive Director Michael Burns declined comment.


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Tsu and Willoughby both met with members of the corporation’s Board of Trustees during a recent meeting in Juneau, in exchanges which were not listed on the board’s agenda.

In a change from the tenure of the previous CIO, Jeffrey Scott, who departed during the summer, both Tsu and Willoughby say they’ll live in Juneau and work from the corporation’s Goldbelt Place headquarters.

Willoughby, originally from Olympia, Wash., is a former Merrill Lynch equities manager, and has also held senior investment management positions in hedge and mutual funds.

Tsu is an in-house candidate who is currently equities manager for the Permanent Fund. She is the corporation’s only employee based in Anchorage.

Burns declined comment, but APFC spokeswoman Laura Achee said the new CIO will be “expected” to live in Juneau.

Burns, through Achee, declined to say whether there were other candidates as well.

Scott claimed to be an Alaska resident, telling legislators who questioned him that “I was not an Alaska citizen before, but I am now.”

Scott declined comment to the Empire, but may have based that on registering to vote in Juneau, listing the corporation’s office as his residence.

He later told trade publication Institutional Investor that while he was supposed to live in Juneau, he did not do so.

After Scott left the APFC, top legislators said they weren’t surprised that he’d misled them about his residence, and that his brief tenure with Alaska didn’t provide the stability the Permanent Fund needed.

Scott declined comment to the Empire at the time, and Burns said the issue was related to Scott’s private life, not Permanent Fund business. He was the highest-paid state employee during his tenure, earning $348,000 a year.

In meetings with the Board of Trustees in Juneau recently, both candidates appeared eager to assure the board they’d live in Juneau.

Willoughby said he found the idea of living in Alaska “very appealing.”

Willoughby noted his kids were in college, and he and his wife were from the Pacific Northwest and had already lived in a rainforest.

“The rain doesn’t bother us, that’s kind of the way we grew up,” Willoughby told the board.

Tsu already lives in Alaska, but has been living in Anchorage with Burns’ approval.

She told the board that if she is named CIO, it would be important for her to be located with the staff at the headquarters to do the day-to-day management.

“It is important for the person in my job to be in Juneau,” she said.

The final decision about hiring a CIO rests with Burns, not the board, but Burns said he wanted them to meet the candidates before he made a decision. He told the board a week ago he is probably a few weeks from making a decision, and Achee said Friday there was no change from that schedule.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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