Endowments

A deeper look inside the investment returns of some of the most prestigious endowments in the world.

We take a quick look at Ivy schools’ endowments’ performance results both for the 2020 fiscal year and also long-term for 10-year periods.

Fiscal year 2019 was a curious year for the Ivy League endowments. In a year with strong returns in key private market investment classes, the average Ivy underperformed a traditional domestic balanced 60-40 portfolio in FY 2019. Ivies also experienced a wider dispersion of returns and saw a shift in the historical positioning of performance leaders and laggards.

The grades for all the Ivy League endowments are in – and they are rather disappointing. Save for Brown, all Ivies underperformed the 9.9% return of a domestic 60-40 portfolio in fiscal year 2019. The Ivy average in FY 2019 was 6.7%, significantly underperforming the 60-40 and reversing two years in which they outperformed the traditional domestic benchmark.

Using our analytical tools and publicly available endowment annual performance data, we project FY2019 performance of large and small endowments, as well as the Ivy League average and Yale

We sought to examine the relationships between endowment size, pedigree and exposure to private assets and what impact that may have on portfolio risk using advanced quantitative methods and a cutting edge methodology to better model the true behavior and risk profile of private market assets.

The endowment model, and active management in general, has come under increased scrutiny, while indexed, or passive, products have grown in popularity and number. Regardless of where you stand on that debate, it’s hard to deny that the Ivies approach to asset allocation has been very good.

Similar to 2017 performance, this past fiscal year was a strong one for most Ivy League endowments. Fiscal year 2018 is noteworthy, however, for being the first year that long horizon (10-year) returns from all Ivy endowments lagged behind the 60-40 portfolio.

Returns across the Ivy League are largely seen as being driven by exposure to private equity and venture capital.

At the midway point of fiscal year reporting for the Ivy League endowments, our research team analyzes what we know so far to identify the key drivers of returns.

2017 Yale endowment report rebuts Warren Buffett’s 2016 Berkshire Hathaway investor letter that “financial ‘elites’”, including endowments, are better off investing in low fee index products and not “wasting” money on active managers’ hefty fees. We did our own calculations and here’s what we found…