The Yale model of investing, pioneered by Chief Investment Officer David Swensen over the past two decades, doesn’t make sense for Norway’s “Government Pension Fund Global,” according to a Wall Street Journal article published last week.
The Norwegian fund is more than 35 times the size of the Yale endowment, so a strategy like Swensen’s would be too difficult and expensive to implement, Norwegian spokesperson Bunny Nooryani told the WSJ. Swensen’s investing strategy for Yale strongly favors alternative assets such as hedge funds, timber, oil, gas, real estate and private equity. Over the past 20 years, the Yale model has been widely emulated by universities and other institutions nationwide.
But Norway, with $683 billion to manage as of December 2012, takes a different approach. While Yale has gradually reduced its exposure to publicly traded equities and now invests almost 90 percent of its endowment in alternative assets, Norway allocates about 60 percent of its assets to publicly traded equities. Thirty-five percent of its assets go toward bonds and up to 5 percent go toward real estate, but Norway shuns hedge funds, venture capital, commodities and private equity entirely.
“The Yale model would not work for us,” Nooryani told the WSJ, because “the fund is too large to implement that type of strategy.”
Norway’s model has proved successful, earning an average of 4 percent annually since 2009 compared to Yale’s average of 1 percent. The Norwegian fund owns shares in almost 9,000 companies and holds about 1 percent of every major stock on earth.
Experts interviewed by the WSJ expressed their doubts about the future of the asset classes favored by the Yale model, adding that alternative assets have become too crowded with investors, limiting investors’ ability to outperform.
“The first person to the buffet table gets the lobster,” said William Bernstein, an investment manager at Efficient Frontier Advisors in Eastford, Conn. “The people who come a little later get the hamburger. And the ones who come at the end get whatever happens to be stuck to the tablecloth.”