For Immediate Release
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Public School Employees' Retirement System
PA PSERS Board of Trustees Names Benjamin L. Cotton Chief Investment Officer
HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) Board of Trustees today voted to name Benjamin (Ben) Cotton as the Chief Investment Officer of the System.
Mr. Cotton, a U.S Marine veteran, brings over 25 years of corporate leadership, investment, and internal control experience that is well suited for PSERS's commitment to excellent service and continuous improvement. He will oversee 65 internal investment professionals and staff and multiple contracted external consultants and managers who invest the System's $71.2 billion in assets as of June 30, 2022.
Mr. Cotton most recently completed a doctoral program on Leadership and Learning in Organizations through Vanderbilt University's Peabody College this December 2022.
Before initiating his doctoral studies, Mr. Cotton served as a Senior Managing Director for the United Auto Workers Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, established to invest assets and administer healthcare benefits for over 800,000 automotive industry workers and their eligible dependents. As a founding member of the Trust's investment team, Mr. Cotton helped expand its investment processes and grow its assets from $40 billion at inception to over $60 billion while providing over $2 billion net annual healthcare benefit payouts. In addition, he managed the team responsible for investing in public equity, fixed income, credit, cash, and derivatives mandates while leading certain private asset and hedge fund underwritings.
Before joining the Trust, Mr. Cotton worked with Ford Motor Company, where he helped manage over $55 billion in pension, insurance, and cash-related investments. He also served internationally in London, leading the audit teams for Ford Credit in Europe and Asia Pacific, and in Hiroshima he facilitated improvements to financial reporting controls for Mazda Motor Corporation in Japan, North America, Europe, and Australia. After returning to the United States, he also managed Ford's foreign exchange, commodities, and derivatives trading team and managed the team responsible for overseeing Ford's securitization-related reporting processes.
Before joining Ford, Mr. Cotton worked as a research manager and investment analyst in the investment industry.
PSERS Board Chairman Chris Santa Maria commented on Mr. Cotton's selection. "I am extremely happy and proud that Ben accepted the Board's employment offer to join PSERS talented team," said Board Chairman Chris Santa Maria. "We spent months on a nationwide search for our next CIO. Ben's military experience, combined with his corporate and international investment and finance expertise, stood out during our search and interview process. On behalf of the Board, we welcome him and look forward to working with him as he manages PSERS' global investment portfolio and dedicated team of internal investment professionals and external managers."
The Board also thanked Bob Devine, who served as Interim Chief Investment Officer during the search for a new Chief Investment Officer.
Mr. Cotton commented on his hiring as Chief Investment Officer, "It's an honor to join one of the nation's oldest and largest public pension funds," Mr. Cotton said in a statement. "I was drawn to this job by the Board of Trustees' dedication to continuous improvement to keep the system healthy and viable for over 500,000 public school employees and retirees. I'm humbled by the Board's faith in my ability to help them in that endeavor by leading their team of dedicated and hardworking investment professionals."
Hudepohl & Associates, Inc. assisted the Board with the search for a new Chief Investment Officer. Mr. Cotton was chosen from a qualified pool of candidates during a nationwide search that was conducted from May 2022 to present. He will start as PSERS Chief Investment Officer on January 17, 2023.
Mr. Cotton will be paid a salary of $515,000 annually. To attract this highly skilled investment professional, obtained through a nationwide search, he will also receive compensation in the form of a one-time $10,000 quality assurance payment.
Mr. Cotton currently resides in Michigan. He is a United States Marine Corps veteran, who served from 1988 through 1992, including service in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
After his honorable discharge, he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Finance from Midwestern State University in Texas. He earned a master's degree in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. In 1999, he earned a Chartered Financial Analyst designation.
Mr. Cotton succeeds former PSERS Chief Investment Officer, James H. Grossman Jr., who retired in May 2022.
About the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System
PSERS, founded in 1917, began operations in 1919 to oversee a statewide defined benefit pension plan for public school employees. PSERS' role expanded upon the passage of Act 5 of 2017 to include oversight of two new benefit options consisting of defined benefit and defined contribution (DC) components and a stand-alone DC plan. As of June 30, 2022, PSERS had total net assets of $71.2 billion and a membership of about 248,000 active, 247,000 retired school employees and 27,000 vested inactive members.