Kim Lew has rightly gained a reputation for innovative investing during her tenure as
CIO of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
She says it’s driven by a willingness to put in the
The year 2017 has been a big one for Lew.
After five years of working alongside co-chief
investment officer Meredith Jenkins, who left
in 2016 to become Trinity Wall Street’s first
CIO, Lew took over solo management of Carnegie Corporation’s portfolio. In the intervening
year, Lew has made a name for herself, winning
awards and building on her reputation as an
“Because of our size and our mandate, we
have been able to do things that are perhaps a little
more innovative or off the beaten track than some
of our peers,” Lew tells CIO, to explain why her
team has caught the eye of so many of her peers.
“For example, we have been very early inves-
tors in some funds, even being willing to do
first-time funds. We’ve been able to work with
managers on investment opportunities that you
don’t often see a foundation getting involved in.
That’s not to say they are wildly exotic, but we do
like to be early sometimes to an opportunity or a
theme. We are willing to put in the resources on
diligence to be able to do that.”
The performance of Carnegie Corpora-
tion’s investment portfolio shows that having the
freedom to get in early can lead to significant
upside. The foundation has outperformed its
peers and even the Yale endowment.
Lew and her team take a hands-on approach
to sourcing investment ideas and managers. The
investment team travels the world speaking with
managers, CEOs, and other investors to under-
stand what’s happening in the market.
When they aren’t on the road, they are
working with the managers they invest in to
understand what they see in the market and gain
By investing with first-time fund managers,
Lew can add exposures to niche ideas and strategies that add diversity to the overall portfolio.
Lew says that having a team that is curious
and willing to take a deep dive into investment
themes has been critical to the Foundation’s
success, and is part of what attracted her to Carnegie. For her, being an innovative CIO is about
being involved with every investment idea, understanding how asset classes can work together, and
being able to take a view on the total portfolio
rather than simply following trends or headlines.
“I think there is a tendency broadly for limited
partners to find comfort in the herd,” Lew explains.
“We will move together in and out of asset classes,
or be overly cautious when things look bad. And to
me, it is worth it to really get in the mix and talk
through ideas with managers and others so that
we can be contrarian and brave. This is the key to
meeting our return hurdle.”
Lew explains that some of those contrarian
moves have included taking high-conviction positions, like being almost 10 years ahead of other
foundations regarding African equity opportunities. Lately, the foundation’s investments in opportunistic credit and research into Latin America
have yielded positive results. “Our team is really
focused on trying to understand what’s next so
that we can translate that into our portfolio, and
position it well,” Lew contends. —Bailey McCann
University of Florida
Gordon and Betty Moore
WK Kellogg Foundation
Corporation of New York
Kim Lew, Chief Investment Officer (New York, NY)