Kristin Varela, who has spent nearly 15 years in the institutional investment industry, has been appointed the new chief investment officer of the Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System.
Kristin Varela, who has spent nearly 15 years in the institutional investment industry, has been appointed the new chief investment officer of the Hawaii Employees’
Varela will assume her new role Jan. 17.
The ERS board of trustees approved Varela’s appointment after a nationwide search by the firm Ku mabe HR, which received more than 200 applications for the position.
Varela will take over for interim CIO Howard Hodel, who had assumed the top role following the June 30 departure of Elizabeth Burton, who resigned for personal and family considerations after nearly four years on the job. Burton was named in September to the new position of client investment strategist in client solutions and capital markets at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
“It’s an honor and an enormous privilege to be appointed to this position, ” Varela said in a statement. “I am excited to join such a prestigious team and look forward to serving the hard-working employees of Hawaii.”
Varela, who also has served in the public and private sectors, most recently was deputy chief investment officer and interim chief investment officer for the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico. She oversaw a $17 billion pension portfolio that served more than 90, 000 active and retired members. The Hawaii pension portfolio had $21.6 billion in assets as of the end of September.
“I join the board and staff in welcoming Kristin to our team, ” ERS trustees Chair Vince Barfield said in a statement. “She comes highly experienced in the public plan arena and is particularly skilled in the institutional risk and asset classes that are the underpinnings of our successful investment strategy. We look forward to her leadership in further strengthening our program.”
Varela has broad expertise in modeling, market analysis and manager-specific due diligence across various asset classes of public, private and alternative markets. She specializes in risk-based asset allocation, innovative investment solutions and prudent portfolio implementation.
“Public funds always benefit from hiring the best talent available, ” ERS Executive Director Thom Williams said in a statement. “While a specific fund’s staffing needs may evolve over time, a constant is outstanding intellect, character, commitment, competence, and vision. Kristin checks all these boxes and more.”
Varela holds a B.B.A. in finance from New Mexico Highlands University and was featured by the Chief Investment Officer industry website as an “Industry Innovation Awards ” finalist (2021 ) and a top “Forty-Under-Forty ” next-generation leader (2017 ).
Hodel, who plans to retire later in 2023, agreed to assist in the transition to new leadership.