WARF and investment team honored with industry innovation award

December 10, 2015

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) has been presented with a 2015 Industry Innovation Award in the foundation category by Chief Investment Officer magazine. The award specifically recognizes WARF’s risk-balanced philosophy toward investment.

Carrie Thome

Carrie Thome

The leading industry publication identified WARF’s 2005 shift from a more traditional, concentrated 80/20 portfolio to all-risk parity as an innovative strategy. WARF’s investment team is led by Carrie Thome, director of investments for the last eight years. Since that time of moving to the all-risk parity strategy, the portfolio has more than doubled — a cumulative increase of 120 percent. This growth represents an annualized 8.2 percent return over the past 10 years the team has implemented the strategy.

“Constant evolution is part of WARF’s history and blood,” Thome says. The team focuses on “pushing and finding new investing opportunities. We’re always looking for what we could add to our portfolio.”

The foundation remains innovative in more than simply tweaking the risk parity portfolio. WARF recently joined hands with its neighbor, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, to back 4490 Ventures, a $30 million technology fund supporting Wisconsin IT companies. In November, WARF partnered with pre-seed accelerator gener8tor to mentor and coach up to 15 startups each year from the University of Wisconsin.

“Constant evolution is part of WARF’s history and blood. … We’re always looking for what we could add to our portfolio.”

Thome says the investment philosophy is about achieving true diversification throughout the portfolio, including everything from the passive market exposures to the overlay hedge fund portfolio to the various initiatives supporting the local startup ecosystem. “To use a sports analogy, we want as many shots on goal as we can get to achieve WARF’s mission.”

“Carrie’s leadership of our investment portfolio has been strategic, innovative and exceptional,” says Carl E. Gulbrandsen, WARF’s managing director. “We are delighted that Carrie’s work and that of our WARF investment team is being honored by this industry thought-leader publication.”

WARF has management of a nearly $2.7 billion investment portfolio. Thome leads a team of six financial professionals and works with Gulbrandsen and the WARF board of trustees to obtain the highest possible return while ensuring the portfolio continues to perform well regardless of economic conditions.

The full acknowledgement of the award is outlined in the December 2015 issue of Chief Investment Officer.

Earlier this year Thome was named the 24th most powerful institutional investor in the world by Chief Investment Officer.Thome joined WARF in 2001 as associate director of investments and was promoted to her current role in 2007. Thome earned a B.B.A. in finance and real estate as well as an M.S. in finance from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Other foundation finalists for the award included Willett Advisors/Bloomberg Philanthropies, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.

—Jeanan Yasiri Moe