TIAA-CREF Hires Leary to Oversee $505 Billion Portfolio

TIAA-CREF, the provider of retirement accounts for teachers and non-profit organizations, named Robert Leary as president of the asset-management business that has been expanding by overseeing funds for institutional investors.

Leary, who will manage about $505 billion, was previously at ING Groep NV’s U.S. unit and will report to Chief Executive Officer Roger Ferguson, New York-based TIAA-CREF said today in a statement. The post was held by Scott Evans, whose departure was announced in 2012. Carol Deckbar, the asset-management chief operating officer, filled the position in the interim.

TIAA-CREF has been adding business with institutional clients to generate fees, diversify its holdings and scale up in some asset classes. It announced a venture with Norway’s sovereign wealth fund in February to buy office buildings and last year created a company that pools institutional money for investments in farmland in the U.S., Australia and Brazil.

Leary “will drive the group’s strategy across investments, distribution and operations, and help expand the company’s third-party business,” TIAA-CREF said in the statement.

The asset-management business has about $240 billion in fixed-income investments, $214 billion in equities, $33 billion in real estate and the remainder in so-called alternative assets, such as agriculture, energy, and private-equity, the company said. The unit oversees funds that back members’ life-insurance policies and retirement accounts in addition to institutional money.

The company’s CREF Stock Account has posted an average annual return of 8.26 percent in the 10 years through April 30. That compares with 8.56 percent for a composite index used by the company as a benchmark, according to data on TIAA-CREF’s website. The Stock Account had about $113 billion in net invested assets as of March 31.

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Leary will start June 24, according to the statement. He joined ING in 2007 and most recently served as president and chief operating officer, leading the company’s investment management, retirement, insurance and annuity business.

ING sold a stake in its U.S. operations this month in an initial public offering as a condition for European Union approval of its 2008 bailout from the Netherlands. The company, ING U.S. Inc., will eventually be renamed Voya Financial.

Leary has also held positions at American International Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and White & Case LLP, according to the statement. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and a law degree from Fordham University.

“We look forward to his leadership as we work to meet the evolving needs of our individual and institutional clients,” Ferguson said in the statement.

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