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Communication key for investment veteran

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By Todd Cohen

As head of global consulting for what is now Russell Investment Group in Tacoma, Wash., a firm whose clients’ assets hit $1 trillion during her tenure, Gloria Reeg learned the value of clearly communicating complex investment issues to customers.

Handed a 70-page PowerPoint presentation from her research staff for a pitch to clients, Reeg boiled it down to basics.

“I needed to understand the client side and the technical side, but put it in a decision-making framework,” she says. “I presented it in five minutes, the client made a decision in five minutes, and it affected probably about $10 billion.”

Reeg, who chairs the investment committee for Casey Family Programs in Seattle, says keeping communications clear and concise will be critical for the foster-care operating foundation as it brings the management of its investments in-house.

“A lot of what we do in the investment industry comes from very, very quantitative technical bases,” she says. “And often there’s a gap between people who understand and do that and practice that day to day, and the decision-makers who make decisions about how endowments and pension funds and foundations should invest.”

An Iowa native who grew up on a farm and majored in math in college, Reeg learned about the value of words in her first job, editing math and science terms for the dictionary department Chicago-area publisher Scott Foresman & Co., now Pearson Scott Foresman.

“I added ‘quark’ to the dictionary,” she says. “No one could beat me at Scrabble.”

After a year-and-a-half as a wordsmith, Reeg moved to actuarial work, first for the Kemper Group, then for what is now Towers Perrin, where she immersed herself in asset-liability modeling and forecasting.

She also spent three years going to classes at night to earn an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, focusing on finance and investment.

In 1982, at about the time she received her MBA, she went to work for a company that later was acquired by William M. Mercer, and began working full-time on investment consulting, moving to the asset side of finance from the liability side.

She worked with pension funds, endowments and foundations such as the Chicago Community Trust to help them set their investment policies and select and manage their investment managers.

After employment at four other investment firms, Reeg now is working to help Casey Family Programs wring more value from its investments to support its foster-care work.

Founded in 1966, the operating foundation saw its assets grow by roughly half in the fourth quarter of 1999 after UPS sold stock to the public for the first time in an initial public offering in November 1999.

Gloria Reeg

Born: March 30, 1951, Bellevue, Iowa

Job: Board member and chair of investment committee, Casey Family Programs, Seattle

Education: B.S., math, University of Wisconsin, Platteville; MBA, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Last job: Executive director and global head of fixed income and currency management, Principal Global Investors, Des Moines and Chicago.

Career: Scott Foresman & Co.; Kemper Group (now Towers Perrin); William Mercer; Ennis Knupp & Associates, Chicago; W.W. Grainger, Chicago; Russell Investment Group, Tacoma, Wash.

Family: Husband, Steve Given, classical trombonist; son and daughter, both in college

Hobbies: boating, gardening, travel

Recently read: Freakanomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner; My Life, by Bill Clinton; It’s My Party, Too, by Christine Todd Whitman

Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption

What people don’t know: “My middle name.”

While it had outsourced its investment function because it lacked investment staff and expertise, Reeg says, the foundation’s board in recent years has wanted the organization to take a more hands-on approach to its investments. After returning two years ago to the Pacific Northwest, where she had worked previously, Reeg last May joined the seven-member Casey Family Programs board, which in recent years has been replacing members with new ones possessing expertise it needs. At the time, the board did not have an investment committee and outsourced its investment program.The board decided in October to bring the investment function in-house, and in December formed an investment committee.

Chaired by Reeg, the committee has undertaken a methodical review of the foundation’s investment program and spending policy.

The committee also has worked with an outside adviser to review the board’s asset-allocation policy and the outsourcing of its investment management.

And it has selected new investment managers, and is conducting a search for a chief investment officer.

The foundation, Reeg says, “is very, very much wanting to focus on its mission, tie how its assets are invested relative to its spending policy and long-term objectives.”

It also wants to “have the expertise to do that well, at the board and committee levels, with the advisers we hire, and the staff we’ll add,” she says.

“My job is making our investment program as excellent as our other programs so we can be as effective as possible accomplishing our mission,” she says. “We just need more money to spend on vulnerable kids in foster care.”

The challenge, she says, will be competing effectively in a highly competitive marketplace.

“The investment marketplace has increased competition for new ideas,” she says, “and we need to make sure we hire the best people, internally and externally, so we can produce the best results.”

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