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“We have to be nimble, flexible, and ever more diligent as we approach the later stages of the business cycle” – Al Kim

Dorothy in conversation with LPs #5

Al Kim - featureAs part of SuperReturn’s series of interviews with LPs, Al Y. Kim, Director of Investments at the Helmsley Charitable Trust, speaks to Dorothy Kelso, Global Head of SuperReturn, about his current role, accomplishments and the advice he would give to organisations looking to invest in alternative strategies.

Dorothy: Where did you start your career?

Al: I started my career at Wilshire Associates, advising some of the biggest pension plans in the United States on their asset allocation and manager decisions. It was a steep learning curve being on the front line, and I learned a ton during my time there. I left Wilshire to pursue my MBA, then spent a number of years in BlackRock’s OCIO business building out its manager research efforts, before joining Helmsley almost four years ago. I had wonderful experiences at Wilshire and Blackrock and I am also really enjoying my time at Helmsley. We have a strong investment team, a well-known and experienced CIO, and the returns we are generating are supporting Helmsley’s mission of improving lives around the world in health and select placed-based initiatives. What more could you ask for?

Dorothy: What do you enjoy most about your current role?

Al: I enjoy the breadth, flexibility, and opportunities to learn. As a Director of Investments, I co-lead the portfolio management and implementation efforts at Helmsley. This means I work with managers across the spectrum of asset classes/strategies and, within any particular segment of the portfolio, can choose where to get involved (portfolio strategy and construction, sourcing of new managers, monitoring of existing ones, etc.). This breadth and flexibility lead to constant learning, and I enjoy knowing that I work in an environment where I can apply my/our team’s learnings to help push the portfolio in a better direction. While our portfolio has achieved its objectives over the long-term and has had strong momentum over the last few years, I know we have to be nimble, flexible, and ever more diligent for us to continue to perform as we approach the later stages of this market and business cycle.

Dorothy: What advice would you give to an organisation looking to invest in alternative strategies (hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, etc)?

Al: First, invest time up front to talk to others about their experiences building these portfolios and try to learn from their successes obviously, but also their mistakes. Second, spend time assessing the skill-sets, relationships, and strengths/weaknesses of your team so you understand what you have on hand and what your staffing needs may be. Then design a program that: 1) has clear objectives, 2) leverages your team’s skill-sets/edge so you can achieve those objectives, and 3) has enough flexibility in the implementation process that allows you to evolve your positioning and not be pressured to “fill buckets” when particular strategies are facing unfavorable market conditions. These were some of our team’s learnings as we built out our investment program over the last ten years.

Dorothy: What are you glad to have accomplished?

Al: Bringing my two kids to this world. Having grown up in California, I would not never have guessed that I would end up marrying a New Yorker, but life is unpredictable as we know. Together with my wife, we gave birth to and are blessed to have two wonderful kids. While they can be so tiring on the weekends and do fight like cats and dogs, my sons are both healthy, happy, and kind-hearted and bring so much joy to our family.

Dorothy: What have you seen recently on LinkedIn or Twitter that stood out?

Al: I recently saw a presentation from a Millennial and Gen Z market researcher and consultant named Jason Dorsey at a conference I attended. First, I didn’t realise there was such a profession. Second, as someone who does from time to time poke fun and get frustrated at millennials, I was surprised to see that based on his range of birth years (1977-1995) I am a millennial! Jason went on to explain that:

1) birth years are general guidelines, and where you were born and how you were raised are better determinants of your generation, 2) “cuspers” (those born within 3-5 years of a generation’s beginning/ending) have the advantage of usually being empathetic to both generations, 3) millennials are now the largest and most diverse generation in the US workforce, and 4) we are seeing a divergence within millennials where the generation is splitting into two sub-generations (the “Mega-llennials” and the “Me-llennials”, with diverging levels of real world traction and belief systems). His presentation was entertaining and was a nice break from a full day of sessions on China, geopolitics, and late-cycle investing. I’m sure you’ll find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Dorothy: I’ll look out for him! It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you, Al.

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Under the spotlight: Al Y. Kim

Al Y. Kim is Director of Investments at the Helmsley Charitable Trust. In this role, he is responsible for helping lead the development and implementation of the overall investment strategy for Helmsley. Prior to joining Helmsley, Al was a director in BlackRock’s client solutions business and prior to BlackRock, Al was a consultant at Wilshire Associates where he advised public and corporate pension plans on their asset allocation, investment structure, and manager selection issues.

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