Charles Skorina & Company


Our clients: visionary families, transformative nonprofits, Wall Street trailblazers
Our vision: build investment preeminence, create opportunity, enrich lives
Our work: provide talent, access, relationships, and insights


Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. — Warren Buffett

What do chief investment officers earn at nonprofit institutions?  We recruit these executives for a living, so we avidly track their pay and performance.  In this letter, we highlight the compensation of fifty chief investment officers and investment heads at private US foundations. 

Many nonprofits, family offices, and Wall Street firms employ top investment professionals, but it’s difficult to extract meaningful data on compensation from opaque sources.  Ergo, we go with what we can get.

In this case we’re going with a revealing data set from our good friend John Seitz, CEO of FoundationMark.  We wrote about Mr. Seitz in last month’s newsletter, “Foundation Investment Performance,” and we think his research and rankings are useful companions to our endowment studies, of interest to asset owners and all purveyors of investment products and services.

The Bigger the Better 

Nonprofit investors wear many hats but have essentially one metric by which they are judged, long-term performance.  However, that does not seem to be the metric for how they are paid.  When it comes to compensation, size matters.

A few years ago, we ran some correlations using our archival data-sets to see how pay correlated to AUM, tenure, and performance at endowments.

The coefficient for AUM to comp was 0.69, which is moderately high.  But tenure and performance did not appear to have much impact on CIO pay.  In most cases, size trumps all other metrics.

Our correlations

Comp-vs- AUM:  0.69

Comp-vs-Tenure: 0.31

Comp-vs-5yr Returns: 0.27

Kevin Hallock at Cornell University, an expert in the field of executive compensation and author of “Pay: Why People Earn What They Earn and What You Can Do Now to Make More,” puts it this way:

It doesn’t matter whether company size is measured as assets, market value, sales, revenue, or number of employees — bigger firms pay more … way more.

We can isolate the impact of all kinds of other characteristics (e.g., industry, return on assets, profitability, research and development expense, etc.) and even use complicated statistical techniques to remove the influence of “unmeasurable” characteristics, and the size-to-pay link remains intact.

The bottom line.  Be it Wall Street, Main Street or nonprofit institutions – the bigger the assets, the better your chances at making more money.

Dense, Dry, and Detailed

The IRS uses 990 filings for tax computations and foundations must swear to the accuracy of the data “under penalty of perjury.”  Fortunately for us, all of the numbers in our table below are publicly available in the filings as long as you are patient and willing to dig for them.

Foundations have a hodgepodge of fiscal year-ends, and many are excruciatingly slow to file the IRS forms no matter what their fiscal year. There can be a long time-lag, often up to a year or more before the data is publicly available.

One last caution. 990s data is generally consistent but not always apples to apples. If you see a figure that you know is off and have an explanation we can publish, let us know. We’re happy to revise and send out an update.


We like to publish clear tables with easy-to-read data. To spare the eyes and keep tables legible, we’ve added the compensation, benefits, and expense numbers together for each head of investments and filing year. In all but a few cases the benefits and expenses run ten to twenty percent of listed compensation.

There are exceptions. For Jim Williams at the Getty, Scott Taylor at the Mellon, and Robert Manilla at Kresge, their benefits plus expenses were more than half their listed compensation for the most recent filing year. And for Jay Flaherty at the Mott, about one third of his compensation.

As for any breakout reveals of base and bonus – and insights as to how bonuses and performance relate – they just aren’t there folks. Most foundations don’t reveal detailed comp breakdowns and they don’t have to. And, of course, we can only publish pay and performance from public sources, not what we might have been told in private.

 And now, our feature presentation.  (Click link for PDF with comp chart)

 — Charles Skorina

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Chief Investment Officers for Dummies

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it. – Henry Ford, SF Chronicle 1928

What do chief investment officers actually do for a living?  Most board members, executives, reporters, the public, apparently have no idea. So, here’s our learned take after decades recruiting them.

The number one job of a chief investment officer is to protect the money their patron spent a lifetime accumulating. Job two is to construct and implement a portfolio that will compound at ten percent a year for the rest of eternity. Job three is to keep jobs one and two from going off the rails.

A True Story

Here’s an example of what can go wrong, a true story. I sat in on a college board meeting a few years ago at the invitation of the CIO who would soon retire. This CIO had managed not long before to wangle a modest initial allocation to Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s seminal venture capital firms.

The CIO had produced excellent performance over his tenure, and he looked at the Sequoia investment as a parting gift to the school, and proudly mentioned it at the board meeting.

This, unfortunately, did not sit well with the new board chairperson, a trial lawyer, who knew and cared nothing about institutional investing, venture capital, or diversified portfolios, but a lot about how to lean on witnesses and win an argument.

“Why would you waste your time on a piddling investment like that? I think we [the board] should agree that no investment will be made in the future for under three million dollars.”

The CIO looked at me, my cue to speak up, and I told the members about persistence in VC performance and Peter Thiel’s five-hundred-thousand dollar bet on Facebook, which reportedly returned about a billion to Mr. Thiel.

“That’s like saying if someone had invested in Apple in the beginning they’d be rich today,” replied the chairperson. And that was that. The board acquiesced, the resolution passed, and the CIO’s best intentions took an unexpected turn.

There is an interesting postscript, however. A year or so later the board majority decided to outsource the portfolio and do an end run around the chairperson whom, they decided, was too much at odds with the rest of the members to pursue a coherent investment policy.

The Tao of Investing

CIOs have time and money on their side. The best use both to lasting advantage. True investment professionals develop a discipline that rivals any Olympic athlete: the ability to temper their emotions, place well researched bets, and hold fast come rain or shine.

Portfolio construction and sitting tight may not be as exciting as buying a sports team, building office towers, or striking oil, but over the long haul, diversification and compounding win most races.

Jon Hirtle, executive chairman of Hirtle Callaghan, describes investing this way. “Serious investing is about consistency, and serious investors position their portfolios to succeed in a highly uncertain future.”

Warren Buffett views investing as a journey, always engaging, never certain. “Over time, it takes just a few winners to work wonders. And, yes, it helps to start early and live into your 90s as well.”

And Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, points to “a consistent voice, a clear purpose, a coherent strategy, and a long-term view,” as hallmarks of superior leadership, qualities that shine in top-ranked chief investment officers.

Watching Paint Dry

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CHARLES A. SKORINA & COMPANY works with leaders of Endowments, Foundations, and Institutional Asset Managers to recruit Board Members, Executives Officers, Chief Investment Officers and Fund Managers.

Mr. Skorina also publishes THE SKORINA LETTER, a widely-read professional publication providing news, research and analysis on institutional asset managers and tax-exempt funds.

Our Practice:

• We recruit Board Members and Executive Officers, Chief Investment Officers and Senior Asset Managers.

• Our research and analytics are backed by over thirty years of hands-on recruiting experience and an unrivaled personal network.

• We collect performance, compensation, and background data on most senior institutional investment professionals in the U.S. and the funds they manage.  We analyze that data to construct profiles of those managers and their funds, identify best-in-class people, and map their career trajectories.

• We share our research and insights in a widely-read professional newsletter – THE SKORINA LETTER – and website –

• The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Thompson Reuters, Financial Times (Fundfire), Institutional Investor, Pensions & Investments, Private Equity International, and the institutional investment community use our research and analysis.  Skorina has been interviewed on chief investment officer compensation issues on Bloomberg TV.

• Our work is regularly re-printed in and other industry magazines, blogs, and third- party web postings.

• We focus specifically and effectively on the world we know: Board members and Executive Officers, Chief Investment Officers, and Senior Asset Managers at institutional investment firms and funds – including sovereign wealth funds, endowments, foundations, pension funds, banks, investment banks, outsourced chief investment officer firms (OCIO), and sell-side money managers.

Prior to founding CASCo, Mr. Skorina worked for JP MorganChase in New York City and Chicago and for Ernst & Young in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Skorina graduated from Culver Academies, attended Michigan State University and The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey where he graduated with a BA, and earned a MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago.  He served in the US Army as a Russian Linguist stationed in Japan.

Charles A. Skorina & Co. is based in Tucson, Arizona.


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