Harvard FY2021: It’s Not How You Finish; It’s How You Play the Game…

Haunted by the ghosts of 2009, Harvard endowment's lower risk appetite still pays off with a 33.6% return.

October 27, 2021

Harvard’s endowment enjoyed a 33.6% return for the FY ended June 30, 2021 and now stands at $53.2 billion. By any measure, it remains the largest university endowment in the land. In most years, that would leave management with little to apologize for or explain.

But this last fiscal year was not like most; in fact, as endowment CEO N.P. “Narv” Narvekar observed in his FY2021 annual report, it was “an extraordinary year.” And that was certainly true if you were heavy in private equity and venture capital, like Harvard endowment’s peers Univ. of Penn and Bowdoin.

Harvard, though, marches to the beat of a very different drummer. They come by their lower risk appetite honestly and haven’t forgotten the 27.3% drop they faced at the end of FY 2009, the largest-ever decline driven by the Great Recession.

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