Harvard Endowment Shows Disappointing Performance

While an improvement over the 2% loss suffered in 2016, Harvard University’s endowment returned a lackluster 8.1% this year, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “marking another disappointing year for the world’s richest school.”

The article cites comments of the endowment’s new chief, N.P. Narvekar explaning that the weak returns are a “symptom of deep structural problems” and that these issues are likely to continue hurting returns. According to data provided by Cambridge Associates, college and university endowments have posted average gains of 12.7% so far this year.

Harvard’s underperformance, according to Narvekar, “stemmed from losses in its natural resource portfolio” which includes timberland and vineyards, adding that the portfolio will take “multiple years” to recover. Narvekar, who took over about a year ago, has “dramatically reshaped the world’s largest university endowment,” according to the article, and has moved away from putting funds in the hands of internal hedge-fund traders. “Most university endowments,” the article says, “rely on outside managers, though some manage all or part of their passive investments themselves.”