Top investment officer at CalPERS to leave post after less than 2 years — here’s why she’s leaving

The top investment expert for California’s state worker pension fund announced that she will leave her position at the end of the month.

Nicole Musicco said she would step down from her role as chief investment officer of the California Public Employees Retirement System on Sept. 29. Her decision comes after months of shuttling back and forth between Sacramento and her hometown of Toronto — often on red-eye flights — to support what she describes as her “large, multigenerational” family, including her two children.

“I’ve spent my entire career making the necessary trade-offs between my personal and professional life,” Musicco said in a CalPERS statement. “But lately, those trade-offs have come at too high of a cost.”

Musicco joined CalPERS in February 2022 as the second woman to lead investment operations at the nation’s largest public pension fund. She hired key staff, such as Peter Cashion and Anton Orlich, who will respectively continue to shape the fund’s sustainable investment program and expand higher risk and reward opportunities to spur growth. In November, Musicco’s investment team will unveil a new plan for sustainable investing that includes a road map for how to make the portfolio’s greenhouse gas emissions net zero by 2050.

CalPERS Chief Investment Officer Nicole Musicco
CalPERS Chief Investment Officer Nicole Musicco

“Nicole has brought to her work the vision and the values that we needed, the kind of approach that added real clarity and strength to our investing,” said CalPERS Chief Executive Officer Marcie Frost in a statement Friday. “While it will be hard to see her go, we know it’s the right decision to put her family first and we applaud the strength it took to do so.”

In Musicco’s first full year leading the fund, CalPERS netted preliminary returns of 5.8% and a funded status of 72% — a stark contrast to the previous year which saw negative returns amid a volatile market.

CalPERS Deputy Chief Investment Officer Dan Bienvenue will lead the investment team in the interim as the search begins for Musicco’s successor.

The CalPERS board convenes in Sacramento next week for its three-day monthly meeting. Musicco will, one last time, lead the investment committee’s meeting Monday morning.

“It was ambitious to move some 2,500 miles to California for the chance to help lead CalPERS, and I leave with no regrets,” Musicco said. “But right now, it’s important to listen to the voices of my family and respond to their needs.”