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Chief Investment Officer
New York State Common Retirement Fund
When Raudline Etienne, MBA 94, became the New York state pension system's chief investment officer in March 2008, the stock market was performing near historic highs, with the fund flush with $154 billion. Then came the subprime mortgage meltdown, and a year later, the pension fund bottomed out at $110 billion.
Etienne, who previously had worked as a consultant to pension funds, calmly rode out the storm. By December 2010, the fund was back up to $140 billion, with even higher returns projected in 2011's first quarter.
"It was a huge hit, but now we have rebounded," says Etienne, of Harlem, who emigrated from Haiti to New York City at age 4. "We had to remember that equity risk was what we were all experiencing. I'm not one who panics, and I knew that this, too, would pass."
Etienne's appointment as CIO came as New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced his plan to clean up the scandal-ridden office, then reeling from the conviction on corruption charges of eight officials, including Etienne's predecessor. In her role, Etienne typically makes investments ranging from $50 million to $500 million in a portfolio that includes public and private equities, fixed-income securities, and real-estate assets, ranging from self-storage complexes in Europe to retail developments in Brazil. Her duties include finding overseas advisers to make investments in international markets.
"We're a global player, so we need to identify talent who will be good partners for the long term," Etienne says. "We're looking to see that there's something unique—in their perspective, in the process, in their people."
Etienne, who majored in architecture at MIT, discovered the institutional investment world through her participation in the Toigo Fellowship program at Haas. The program supports minority professionals considering finance careers and provided her entrée to a field dominated by white males.
"I got here because Toigo opened a door for me, and I worked hard," says Etienne, who was in the Haas School's first class of Toigo fellows.
Etienne learned about the pension and investment management worlds through many Toigo-sponsored events, including a visit to the California Public Employees' Retirement System. After graduation, she worked as an investment consultant for more than 12 years, advising public retirement systems across the country.
"I found that the field suited me—the balance between qualitative and quantitative," she says. "I never get bored."—David McKay Wilson
Raudline Etienne, MBA 94