A Vision for the Investment Community: Doing Well While Doing Good

Carlton W. Lenoir, Sr., Keynote Address, Markets Group Midwest Forum, May 15, 2024
Carlton W. Lenoir, Sr., Keynote Address

These gatherings are important ones as we come together as a community to learn from each other, to help us think differently, and consider strategies for mitigating risk and increasing returns. Brian Collins got us off to a thought-provoking start with some of the major threats on the horizon and also with his call to service. We also had some excellent interviews on investment opportunities in private and securitized credit and convertible bonds. And as we reviewed those options some clear themes emerged. The words volatility, global change, dislocation – were prominent. And the best way for us to overcome those risks and the uncertainty they represent – is knowledge. Because uncertain times and global change mean that decisions or options are not black and white – we are living in the gray area – where the “tried and tested” mean very little. Markets and Assets look different, and we are all seeking novel approaches and big ideas that will help propel us forward. 

And truthfully, I cannot tell you what the next 12 months will bring, or the future will hold -- no single individual can do that – I do not have a crystal ball – but what I do have is vision, a vision rooted in nearly 130 years of investing and caring for our stakeholders. And sharing that vision with you, in ways both formal and informal – is what makes meetings like this important.  

As we convene, I see many members of the Pension Fund community here today, including some of my colleagues from Funds across the state – but I am going to take a moment of personal privilege and point out that CTPF holds a unique place among pension funds – being the first pension fund established in Illinois and the second in the nation. Our founders knew in 1895 that preserving dignity and financial security in retirement was a goal worth fighting for, and they began the fight. 

It was not easy to move the new concept of pension to a financial reality. For the first 20 years our system struggled to provide financial security with contributions from the members and earnings from bonds.  

However, A transformative moment arrived in 1905 with the reorganization of our Board under the leadership of Jane Addams, who as a towering figure in social reform. Addams spearheaded a pivotal revision of the Pension Law, which set our fund on a sustainable path. It was a social experiment that worked – it produced a system that provided Chicago’s educators that security for nearly 130 years, and modeled retirement security for the nation.  

I share all this today not because I want to offer a history lesson, but because I want you to understand the vision we hold as investors. The ethos of collective care and communal welfare, instilled by our predecessors, endures. 

Today’s educators believe just as strongly not just in the power of the pension promise – but that we can do more than provide financial security – we can use our pensions and the economic engine they have become to fuel positive change. Our Trustees believe that the pensions and the investments they represent must do more than just do well for our members, they can also contribute to the common good.   

Since 1990 our MWDBE investments have grown more than 3,000% and I stand here today proudly recounting that we have currently invested 51% of our assets in MWDBE managers. And we have done so with a 30-year long-term Compound Annual Growth Rate of 8.5%, beating our target by 200 basis points. This is not an accident; it is the result of a long-term effort by our Trustees to honor our history and ensure that the investments we make do well and do good.  

We didn’t accomplish this alone – turning our vision into a reality has been a partnership between the Fund and the investment community – which has grown, changed, and adapted over time.  

So as we look forward today, and enjoy panels on Asset Allocation, Securities Litigation Recoveries, exploring alternatives, decision making in disruptive times, navigating ESG, and more -- I hope you will find ways to consider how this partnership, this meeting of the minds can benefit all our stakeholders. With investments in communities, not just companies – to help us find investments that do well and do good.  

Let us work together to learn, innovate, and amplify our collective impact.  

Thank you for joining today, and on behalf of the over 94,000 members of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund and the Midwest Institutional Forum, welcome to Chicago.