Monday, November 10, 2008

Endowment Asset Allocations

Interesting article in Barrons this week on the performance of U.S. college endowments. In recent years endowments have increased exposure to alternative investments in an attempt to emulate the star endowments of Yale and Harvard. Barrons' main argument is that while this strategy looked good up till this year recently alternatives have performed just as badly as traditional assets (stocks and bonds) and that maybe these funds should focus more on traditional assets in future:

(I don't know how they're coming up with a 50% loss in private equity since June 30 - I think this is just a wild guess based on assuming that private equity moves like public equity and as it is levered the losses will be worse. Private equity funds aren't reporting these kind of losses as is discussed in another Barrons' article on Blackstone). In contrast to the article and the headline on the table, the theory of rebalancing would argue for putting more money into the alternatives that have had recent poor performance. What do you think?

Having a lot in alternatives hasn't done Moom and Moominmama much good either. These are our allocations at the end of October:

Compared to the star endowments Moom has heaps of foreign equity (mainly Australian stocks) and low allocations to private equity and real assets. Moominmama has piles of bonds and cash and zero allocation to private equity and a low allocation to real assets. Of course, our low allocation to US stocks is because we are not US based. Moom had a 46% allocation to his domestic equity but Moominmama has a zero allocation to her domestic equity. The average between our two portfolios is not that far from the portfolio of the average educational endowment as estimated by Bloomberg. And despite Barrons' article that might not be a bad benchmark to aim for in the long-term.


Using the concept of Euclidian distance we can compute the similarities between the portfolios (I dropped Stanford from the sample). Moom is closest to the average endowment with a distance of 38% and furthest from Harvard with a distance of 56%. Moominmama is also closest to the average endowment (30%) and furthest from Princeton (41%). The distance between Moom and Moominmama is 49%.

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