Investments Office alumni excel

YIO

Another protégé of Yale Chief Investment Officer David Swensen is leaving the nest.

Last week, Peter Ammon GRD ’05 SOM ’05 — a Yale Investments Office director who works under Swensen — was named the University of Pennsylvania’s next chief investment officer. When he leaves Yale this summer, Ammon will join the ranks of YIO alumni who have gone on to manage investments for prestigious universities and nonprofit foundations such as Princeton University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wesleyan University, Bowdoin College, the Hilton Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Swensen, who joined the YIO in 1985, said in a Wednesday interview with the News that departures like Ammon’s are “bittersweet” but that he is proud of the YIO’s reputation as a training ground for future leaders in the investing world.

In 2011, roughly a third of all YIO alumni since 1986 were holding leadership positions at endowments or foundations, and half of those leaders were holding the title of CIO, according to the 2011 Yale Investments Office annual report. Former employees of the YIO interviewed attributed their career success largely to Swensen and YIO Senior Director Dean Takahashi ’80 SOM ’83 — leaders who not only taught them how to invest wisely, but also inspired many of them to work for not-for-profit institutions after they left Yale.

“We look for people that care about Yale’s institutional mission,” Swensen said. “So if you buy into the mission and you get very strong training in the investment world, that’s a pretty powerful combination, and it’s not surprising that other not-for-profits would be interested in hiring people with experience at the Yale Investments Office.”

Andrew Golden SOM ’89, a former employee of the YIO who now serves as CIO for Princeton, said the YIO has become a “spring” for leading investors because of the tight-knit nature of the office, which allows even the most junior employees to interact on a daily basis with the office’s top professionals.

Though Dennis Hong ’05, a former YIO employee who now works as a principal at Altimeter Capital, said he thinks Swensen would be happy if YIO employees “stayed forever,” Golden said the office is supportive of people moving up to take more senior jobs at other organizations.

“If [the office] were shortsighted, they’d focus on how [departures] will set the office back temporarily,” Golden said. “But they’re wise enough to be long-term oriented. If you build an office that’s a great place to be and a great place to be from, that creates a virtuous cycle in terms of ability to acquire talent.”

Former YIO employees said that having the YIO on their resume has proved invaluable for their careers.

“It’s kind of like being an assistant coach under one of the renowned sports coaches,” said Jay Kang ’02, director of investments for the Hilton Foundation. “Once people hear that you worked at the Yale Investments Office, they immediately give you kind of a lot of respect.”

Paula Volent SOM ’97, a former member of the YIO who now manages Bowdoin’s endowment, said she has been able to apply much of what she learned from Swensen to her current job, and she credited Swensen with furthering her interest in both investing and education.

Volent said she has found managing endowments fulfilling because her work supports an educational mission and provides financial aid dollars to students who otherwise would not be able to attend schools like Yale or Bowdoin.

Given the soaring endowment performances the YIO achieved over the past 25 years, with average returns of near or above 20 percent in the mid-2000s, Golden added that he is not surprised that other institutions are eager to hire YIO alumni. In the investing world, the YIO is famous for creating a new endowment model that sought opportunities in inefficient markets among other strategies, said Charlton Reynders, a financial adviser with Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management who is not affiliated with the YIO. Though the YIO’s “unparalleled” reputation was bruised by the endowment’s poor performance during the financial crisis — the endowment dropped almost 25 percent in value in fiscal year 2009 — the office’s long-term record remains stellar, Reynders said.

Swensen said the YIO hires many of its employees from Yale College and the School of Management.

“As an undergrad[uate], if you look around at your classmates and see who are the whiz kids, a lot of them are going to end up working for the Yale Investments Office,” Provost Benjamin Polak told the News in January. “It’s been a wonderful educational stepping stone for a lot of people.”

Ammon did not respond to requests for comment.

The Yale endowment posted a return of 4.7 percent for the fiscal year that ended on June 30.

Correction: April 18

A previous version of the graphic accompanying this article misidentified Anne Martin as the chief investment officer for the Rockefeller Foundation, when in fact she is the CIO for Wesleyan University.

Comments