253. Marcie Frost, CEO of CalPERS: Public Service, Pushing for Impact, and Learning how to take a Punch

Marcie Frost is the Chief Executive Officer of CalPERS, the largest pension fund in the US with over $400 billion in assets under management and serving over 2 million members in its retirement system. She was recently elected to the board of the Toigo Foundation.

Our conversation starts with her very early days in public service, and how typing and softball were an unusual combination that led to an opening opportunity.  She recalls how she rose through the ranks in Washington State, ultimately running the Department of Retirement Systems and chairing the Washington State Investment Board. She notes that what people say about you you in the form of endorsement can be more effective than what you say about yourself.

We move then to her role at CalPERS and the change that it involved and ask what is at the forefront of her mind today.  We discuss a wide range of topics from the challenges of funding, stakeholder management and flexing the muscle around change that steering this level of assets.  Topics that CalPERS is particularly active around include climate change – and it has committed $100 bn to climate innovation as well as diverse managers, where it has contributed $4 bn just in recent allocations.

We conclude with a broad discussion on pension fund governance, the challenges and opportunities of working in the public arena and the mindset that sets one up for success.

Series 3 of the 2024 Fiftyfaces Podcast is sponsored by Ruffer and Nuveen.