James Williams – Curating The Getty’s Assets (EP.50)

April 29, 2018


Jim Williams is the Vice President, Chief Investment Officer and Treasurer of the Getty Trust, where he oversees a $7 billion portfolio for the Getty Museum. Before joining the Getty in 2002, Jim spent three years as the President of Harbor Capital Advisors and prior to that, was manager of the Ford Motor Company pension department.

Our rich conversation covers all aspects of managing a significant pool of non-profit assets including modeling liquidity, creating a specialist team structure, sourcing managers, discerning between talented managers, co-investing, sizing manager positions, investing in venture capital, viewing hedge funds like a basketball point guard, working with a constructive board, and finding opportunities in the current “least dirty shirt” market.

This conversation ranks way up there in the breadth, depth, and quality of discussion. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed speaking to Jim.

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Show Notes

2:06 – A look at Jim’s background and how he got to the Getty Museum

7:23 – A look at the pool of capital at Getty

8:47 – How does the high dependence of the endowment on the institution impact asset allocation

11:17 -  How do they think about liquidity

13:29 – What happens when they find a priceless work of art to acquire

16:52 – What beliefs did Jim bring to the table in shaping how Getty allocated capital

21:46 – How does Jim think about asset allocation vs manager selection

23:17 – Their approach to China

23:55 – Finding good managers in China

26:29 – What are underlying factors when choosing between two similar managers

29:34 – What are some ways Jim determines if people have the “stuff” to manage capital

33:23 – Deep dive into the co-investment program

35:07 – How do they underwrite co-investments in a short period of time

36:53 – Why do they pass on co-investment opportunities

39:58 – How does Jim size investments

41:24 – Number of manager relationships across the portfolio

43:14 – Thinking about the level of diversification their strategy creates

47:35 – Jim’s take on public equities and hedge funds

50:15 – Exploring the working relationship with the board and trustees

52:19 – Why do endowment and foundation trustees seem to have more success than other groups of trustees

53:24 – How does Jim exercise his decision-making authority

55:06 – Example of when Jim pushed back on an idea from a senior member of the team

59:47 – How have they found and retained team members

1:02:35 – Other competitive advantages that Jim brings to the table

1:04:20 – What is Jim most excited about and most worried about in the markets/his portfolio

1:08:28 – Closing questions


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