Endowments

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

Every fall brings with it excitement and some surprise in a much-watched annual contest. No, we’re not talking about the World Series but rather endowment-reporting season when most schools report their fiscal year investment returns.

In this section of our Research we will focus on analyses of the top endowment funds using MPI Stylus, which has become a solution for investors assessing complex funds and those with limited data disclosures (e.g., hedge funds).  The project below is an attempt to bring more transparency to the opaque world of some of the most largest and successful investors in the world. MPI’s analyses provide insight into these top endowments that cannot be achieved using other methods and suggests reasons for the range of performance outcomes they report.

In-depth Endowment Research

It is generally known that endowments invest in risky assets, but quantifying such risks has remained challenging due to a lack of information about returns. We set out to address this challenge and developed a new basis for estimating endowment risks.

In stark contrast to FY 2016, this past year was a strong one for most endowments. In fact, nearly all the Ivy League endowments, Harvard being the only exception, beat the 60-40 portfolio, a commonly cited benchmark that endowments measure their performance against.

The returns of endowments can be attributed to two fundamental components: asset allocation and security selection. Asset allocation is what a factor model is generally able to explain, shown in terms of factor exposures.

We look at the largest endowments and find striking similarities in their asset class exposures. At the same time, some endowments stand out both in terms of allocations and FY2016 performance.

An 1873 meeting that brought Harvard, Yale and Princeton together to codify the rules of American football also debuted a sports conference later known as the “Ivy League — eight elite institutions whose heritage, dating from pre-Revolutionary times, became formative influences shaping American character and culture.  These schools also pioneered endowment investment management, thus helping to secure the nation’s educational legacy for posterity.

Using MPI’s Dynamic Style Analysis and public annual return disclosures we attempt to provide transparency on allocation decisions and performance results of some of the largest and most successful investors in the world.