California Pension Fund Considers Blockchain Opportunities

Stan Higgins
Sep 2, 2016 at 17:26 UTC
Updated May 3, 2017 at 15:24 UTC

Board members of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) recently took part in a discussion on blockchain technology as part of a broader conversation about future investment opportunities.

The meeting is notable given the size of CalPERS, which manages just over $300bn in assets, making it the largest public pension fund of its kind in the US.

As previously reported by journalist Brian Cohen, the meeting (which took place in late July) featured a presentation by Jesse McWaters of the World Economic Forum. McWaters provided an expansive look at the current pace of development around the blockchain and FinTech, followed by a question-and-answer session from attendees.

Interestingly, CalPERS itself already has some exposure to the bitcoin and blockchain industry, albeit indirectly.

In 2009, the pension fund invested $200m in Kholsa Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund, and gave an additional $60m to a seed stage-focused fund run by Kholsa. Just over two years ago, Kholsa led a funding round for blockchain startup Chain, and the fund has also invested in Blockstream, 21 Inc and BlockScore.

Other public pension funds outside of the US have explored investments in the space. Earlier this year, the venture arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) took part in a funding round for VC firm Digital Currency Group.

Whether CalPERS moves to more directly invest in the industry remains to be seen. However, recent reporting suggests that the pension fund hasn’t had the best luck with its venture capital efforts. Struggling performance overall may dampen its appetite for riskier investments amid poor economic conditions.

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