As a longtime student of the financial markets, Vicki Fuller has amassed a wealth of knowledge over the course of her career. It all came together when she became Chief Investment Officer of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. As CIO of the nation’s third largest public pension fund, Fuller is responsible for the strategic investment of $178 billion in heavily-diversified assets.
“Every tool in my kit came into play,” Fuller said. “The job is the sum total of all I have learned from all those different opportunities I’ve had along the way. I guess I packed well for the trip.”
She expanded the diversification of the Fund’s holdings amid volatile markets, found growth opportunities in emerging markets, real estate and alternatives, shored up its core equity and fixed income portfolios while merging ESG considerations into the investment process.
“The way a fund our size is going to achieve its long-term, prudent mission is to invest wisely across asset classes. That means everything,” said Fuller. “We’re utilizing diversification in a smart way.”
At the end of the day, the mix is designed to ensure retirement security for the Fund’s one million members, both working and retired.
“Our investment horizon is virtually infinite,” Fuller said. “The decisions we’re making today are going to give some peace of mind to the men and women retiring decades from now.”
Since her appointment by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli in July 2012, Fuller has helped the Fund grow by some $30 billion and cement its reputation as one of the best-funded and best-managed public pension funds in the U.S.
One of the ways she has wisely invested is by opening doors for younger and smaller firms through the Fund’s Emerging Manager Program.
“I’ve seen a lot of encouraging and exciting changes over the years on Wall Street,” said Fuller. “But the lack of diversity is one thing that has not changed fast enough. One of the reasons I’m so attracted to diversity is that it’s shown to provide additional alpha by enlarging the perspective that we bring to the science or art of investing.”
The Fund is one of the few state pension funds with emerging manager programs in the majority of its asset classes. It has invested more than $9 billion with MWBEs through its Emerging Manager Program and direct allocations, including more than $600 million over the past year.
“Comptroller DiNapoli is the real thing,” Fuller said. “He believes in doing well by doing good.”
In January 2016, Fuller had another opportunity to combine performance with values when she launched the Fund’s $2 billion Low Emissions Index, a creative tool, custom-designed with help from Goldman Sachs that weights the Fund’s domestic equities based on their carbon emissions and lowers its exposure to the worst carbon emitters.
Prior to taking the reins of New York State’s pension fund, Fuller worked at Alliance Bernstein where she built and managed investment teams, designed investment solutions for or some of the largest public sector institutional investors and developed fixed income strategies for the firm’s Global Wealth channel.
Fuller has an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BSBA from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She is also a Certified Public Accountant. She has been named one of the most powerful African Americans on Wall Street by Black Enterprise, received the Financial Women’s Association’s Woman of the Year Award, was named to Chief Investment Officer Magazine’s “Power 100” and inducted into the National Association of Securities Professionals Wall Street Hall of Fame.
“You have to be comfortable with risk to do this job,” said Fuller. “And it helps to have a passion, something high velocity, to shake it all loose at the end of the week.”
Outside of the peaks and valley of finance, Fuller is an avid and accomplished horseback rider and fox hunter.
“The fox always wins,” she laughed. “We get close to them and say, ‘Ok, see you next week.’”