TIAA Adds Martha Willis to Promote $861 Billion Fund Manager

  • Willis will report to Global Asset Management CEO Leary
  • Insurer is rebranding under ex-Fed Vice Chairman Ferguson

TIAA hired Martha Willis, formerly of OppenheimerFunds, as chief marketing officer of the global asset-management unit that oversees about $861 billion.

Willis will report to Robert Leary, chief executive officer of the subsidiary, the company said Friday in an e-mailed statement. She will be based in New York for the newly created position, according to a company spokeswoman.

TIAA, which is known for selling insurance and financial products to teachers, has been seeking to expand its role as a third-party money manager after rebranding this year, shortening the company’s name from TIAA-CREF. Leary has been promoting investment in alternative holdings including real estate and agriculture, while expressing a bullish view on U.S. stocks.

“We take a very long-term view, particularly for real assets,” Leary said in a televised interview last month. “Our investment horizon is often 10-plus years, and in things like timber it may be 20-plus.”

Leary said in the March 24 interview that the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index would rally. The index traded for 2,082.45 at 11:17 a.m. in New York, up more than 2 percent from the closing price on the day before his remarks.

Wider Audience

Willis, known as Marty, was chief marketing officer at OppenheimerFunds. She previously spent 25 years at Fidelity Investments, according to the statement. TIAA is rated AA+ at S&P and is led by former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Roger Ferguson.

“We have a great story to tell, and with Marty’s leadership, we will bring it to an even wider audience,” TIAA Chief Marketing Officer Connie Weaver said in the statement. “We are thrilled to add such an experienced colleague to our company.”

Stephen Tisdalle, OppenheimerFunds’ head of marketing, has taken over Willis’s marketing duties since she left, Kimberly Weinrick, a spokeswoman for OppenheimerFunds, said in a phone interview.

Voya Financial Inc. and MetLife Inc. are among other insurance providers that have been recruiting marketing executives as they seek to highlight asset-management operations. Voya in October hired Karen Eisenbach, formerly of JPMorgan Chase & Co. MetLife in 2014 hired Esther Lee, who previously worked at AT&T Inc., as global chief marketing officer.

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