Meet Peng Wang, GHF’s new chief investment officer
Until Feb. 1, 2023, we were Group Health Foundation. This post was written under our former identity. To learn more about our new name, read our announcement here.
In a different set of circumstances, Peng Wang might have become a physicist rather than Group Health Foundation’s new chief investment officer. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Peking University and Georgetown University respectively and completed post-graduate work in theoretical physics. So why is Peng a CIO today? “Simple,” he says, “I love people.” He adds with a laugh, “When you do theoretical physics, you don’t talk to people. You do calculations. I really enjoy the people element of investing.”
Peng also credits a bit of luck, his openness to pursuing opportunities outside his field, and Larry Kochard – the former CIO of Georgetown University’s $1.2 billion investment office – who Peng says opened the door to the world of investing. “Larry was looking for someone who could do simulation coding, and coding and modeling were part of my work in theoretical physics. I thought it might be a fit for me.” Peng was right. After seeing Peng’s work, Larry offered him a full-time analyst role at the investment office.
Since then, Peng has served as managing director of investments for GHF, head of portfolio research for TIAA Endowment, and risk manager at the University of Virginia Investment Management Company; had his research published in the Financial Analyst Journal, Journal of Portfolio Management, Journal of Private Equity, and Journal of Wealth Management; and been named one of Chief Investment Officer’s “Forty Under Forty,” one of Trusted Insight’s “Top Institutional Rising Stars,” and received the Graham and Dodd Readers’ Choice Award.
Despite all he’s learned and accomplished in his 18 years in the field, Peng says that the past eight months serving as the foundation’s acting CIO and the interview process to become CIO gave him new insights about himself and his leadership style. “I had to crystallize my ideas about how I want to lead and manage. I want to help my team grow. I know that will mean finding a balance and understanding what I’m good at and where I need to grow as well.”
Adopting a growth mindset and finding balance are, in fact, integral to both Peng’s leadership style and investment philosophy. He says, “Investing is a balance between conviction and humility, and that balance is important. So, learning and accountability are important too.”
Peng has spent exactly half his life in China and the other half in the United States. As he steps into his new role as CIO, he will be one of a small group of Chinese-born CIOs working for U.S. organizations. He remembers arriving to the Dulles International Airport and a customs agent wondering aloud whether they had schools in China when Peng explained his status as a student at Georgetown. Looking back, he describes experiences like this as flashpoints that ignited his desire to work for a mission-oriented organization.
GHF’s President and CEO Nichole June Maher says Peng has been instrumental in establishing the Inatai Investment Management Company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of GHF, and in stewarding the foundation’s values: “Peng has done an exceptional job of ensuring that equity and racial justice are embedded in our culture and always a factor in our investment strategy.”
As CIO, Peng will lead Inatai Investment Management Company with the support of the investment team, which manages the foundation’s $2 billion in assets and oversees the strategic deployment of financial resources in service of the foundation’s mission and values. Peng says the diversity of his team’s backgrounds and lived experiences is a core strength, one he plans to nurture and grow as more analysts come on board.
In addition to developing the diverse and talented investment team, Peng says he’s most looking forward to helping smaller nonprofits, foundations, and endowments access top-tier, affordable investment services through Inatai Investment Management Company’s innovative cost-sharing model.
Peng continues to carry his passion for learning outside of his investment work through two favorite hobbies: photography and hunting. Whether summiting snowcapped mountains to capture the perfect nature photo, hunting turkey in northcentral Washington, or kayak fishing in the Puget Sound, Peng thrives outdoors. Lately, he’s been trying his hand at photographing more cityscapes. Given his love of people, photographing them seems like the obvious next step. “I don’t do portraiture,” Peng says and then corrects himself, remembering one of the most powerful words in a growth mindset. “I don’t do portraiture yet.”