Ivy League Endowments Have Lagged 60/40 Portfolios for a Decade

An article in Institutional Investor reveals the findings of a new study that shows how the nation’s elite school endowments have trailed a passive portfolio of 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds over the past ten years.

According to Markov Processes International (MPI), the research and analytics firm that conducted the study, this is the first instance in the 16 years it has been collecting data that these elite colleges have lagged the indexed portfolio when analyzed over a ten-year period.

MPI also found the “volatility of the endowment model—which includes large allocations to private equity, real estate, infrastructure and other illiquid investments—is significantly higher than that of a simple mix of stocks and bonds,” the article reports.

The investment community closely monitors the performance of Ivy League and other school endowments, the article notes, and since the early 2000s some institutional investors have adopted iterations of the portfolio allocation model, often referred to as the Yale Model (pioneered by Yale CIO David Swensen). Jeff Schwartz, president of MPI, said, “There’s a tug of war going on in endowments, as well as in asset management…This report shows that the reality is much more complex than either narrative.”

The article noted that the news wasn’t all bad for the school endowments, however, noting that they did outperform an indexed 60/40 portfolio over the most recent 15-year period, although results varied significantly among schools. Further, it showed that fiscal 2018 was a good year, with every endowment (except Columbia) earning double-digit returns and beating the 60/40 portfolio.