Calpers, California’s $ 400 billion employee pension fund, said Wednesday night that Ben Meng would be leaving immediately. The fund said Dan Bienvenue, deputy investment director, will act as interim investment director in the search for a permanent successor.
Mr. Meng took on the position of investment manager in January 2019 after serving as an assistant at China’s $ 3 billion State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the agency that manages the country’s capital account. The Chinese-American previously worked at Calpers as the fund’s investment manager for asset allocation.
To achieve an ambitious annual performance target of 7%, Mr. Meng led a push towards private equity and private debt. These assets can produce higher returns, but it can be difficult to realize them during times of market stress.
“Leverage will increase the volatility of returns, but Calpers’ long-term horizon should allow us to tolerate this,” Meng said in an interview with the Financial Times last month.
Mr. Meng had recently been criticized for a plan to increase the fund’s leverage to 20 percent of its value by using loans and financial instruments such as stock futures. A board member, Margaret Brown, voted against the plan, saying it reminded her of the fund’s mistakes during the 2008 financial crisis.
Mr. Meng said in a statement posted on the Calpers website that he was “proud” of his work at the fund, but “at the moment it is important for me to focus on my health and on my family and spend to the next chapter of my life ”.
Mr. Meng had been called upon to remedy an asset shortfall, which recently totaled 71 percent of the amount needed to meet scheduled payments to the 1.9 million public servants served by Calpers.
Calpers has been marked by a turnover of executives in recent years. The fund did not have a private equity manager for two years until Greg Ruiz joined it in May 2019. Elisabeth Bourqui stepped down as chief investment officer in January of last year after eight months in the company. fund.
Mr. Meng did not respond to a request for further comment.