The Calpers investment director has stepped down after 18 months in the top position at the largest public pension fund in the United States.
Calpers, California’s $ 400 billion employee pension fund, announced late Wednesday that Ben Meng would be leaving with immediate effect. The fund said Dan Bienvenue, deputy chief investment officer, would act as the provisional chief investment officer as he sought a permanent successor.
Mr. Meng assumed the role of chief investment officer in January 2019 after serving as an assistant professor at China’s $ 3 billion state foreign exchange administration, the agency that manages the country̵
In order to achieve an ambitious annual performance target of 7 percent, Mr. Meng has made a push towards private equity and private debt. These assets can generate higher returns, but it can be difficult to realize in times of market stress.
“Leverage will increase volatility in yields, but Calpers’ long-term horizon should allow us to tolerate it,” Meng said in an interview with the Financial Times last month.
Mr. Meng had recently voiced criticism of a plan to increase the fund’s leverage to 20 percent of its value through loans and financial instruments such as equity futures. A board member, Margaret Brown, voted against the plan, saying he reminded her of the fund’s missteps during the 2008 financial crisis.
Mr. Meng said in a statement posted on the Calpers website that he was “proud” of his work in the fund, but “at this point it is important that I focus on my health and my family and move on to the next chapter my continued life “.
Mr. Meng had been brought in to address a shortage of wealth that was recently 71 percent of the amount required to meet the planned payments to Calpers’ 1.9 million public employees.
Calpers has been shaped by executives in recent years. The fund had no head of private equity for two years until Greg Ruiz joined in May 2019. Elisabeth Bourqui left the company in January of last year after eight months as chief operating investment officer.
Mr. Meng did not respond to a request for further comment.