As Black History Month has come to a close, we’d like to continue to showcase the many Booth alumni of color who continue to inspire us with their success in business and life. For this next installment of the Notable Black Alumni Series, we shine the spotlight on Vicki L. Fuller, former Chief Investment Officer of New York State Common’s $200 billion retirement fund, and previously, Managing Director of a global investment firm with AUM of $500 billion.
Born and raised in Chicago, Fuller faced a difficult childhood growing up near Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green Housing projects. While her father battled various addictions, her mother, Edna Fuller, a bookkeeper, held the family together and instilled in Vicki the value of education. Gaining acceptance to Roosevelt University, she began to search for the “whys” to reconcile her early childhood experiences, and began to think deeply about life in a philosophical light. Inspired by her mother’s diligence as a bookkeeper and her interest in the fundamental questions about existence, Fuller would eventually pursue a major in accounting and minor in philosophy.
Following Roosevelt, Fuller completed a master’s degree in business administration here at the University of Chicago, which opened her eyes to the world of finance, asset management, and asset allocation. Upon graduation, Fuller was immediately recruited to Morgan Stanley. This new role indeed proved to be a challenge, and Fuller learned some key lessons that would eventually become grounding principles for the rest of her career.
During her time at Morgan Stanley, Fuller realized that her strengths and interests lay in investing capital. She then moved on to various finance roles where she was able to learn the totality of the investment process and gain a better understanding of the critical variables necessary for making intelligent investments. She would go on to become a Wall Street executive, navigating the investment management world and generating spectacular investments returns for her clients.
Fuller’s success in the private sector opened the door for her to step into the role of Chief Investment Officer of New York State Employees’ Common Retirement Fund (CRF), the third largest state pension fund in the United States. Through her experience and insight, Fuller grew the Fund profitably and has been sought out for her unique market outlook, innovative investment allocations, and industry insights for effective state pension fund strategies. Under her leadership, the Fund also greatly expanded its minority- and women-owned business investment programs.
Throughout her career, Fuller has been a major force in growing and improving organizations by creating institutional investment processes and innovative investment strategies. Now retired, Fuller has joined several boards, including The Williams Companies Inc. and Fidelity Equity, and is committed to diversity, inclusion, and continually improving the processes of these organizations to be suitable generators of return.
Whenever she reflects on her career, Fuller discusses the notion of holistic success, a cosmic concept of not only pursuing money but also caring about people and their unique diversity, which enables us to achieve our success. She has boiled them down into six principles for success in business and in life:
- Treat people as valued assets.
- Embracing diversity yields superior results.
- Employ a holistic approach to [investing] whatever you do.
- Accept the reality that you will be wrong. Plan for it.
- Leverage obstacles to propel yourself forward; failure is a great fertilizer.
- Say yes to the stretch opportunities early. Aim beyond your grasp.
Vicki Fuller’s career arc from Chicago’s housing projects all the way to corporate boardrooms is an inspiration to many. Now as a Chicago Booth student, I can clearly see the intersection of our Booth values with Fuller’s principles of success. Respecting and valuing people’s unique perspectives, embracing diversity of backgrounds and thought, swinging for the fences, and challenging ourselves. The doors of opportunity that opened up for Ms. Vicki Fuller due to her endless curiosity and pursuit for higher education serve as a personal testament to the immense value of a Chicago Booth MBA.