The endowment has never been larger.
According to a Wednesday morning Yale Investments Office press release, the endowment rose to $23.9 billion in fiscal 2014, the year beginning July 1, 2013 and ending on June 30, 2014. The University’s assets grew by 20.2 percent, beating the investment returns of every other Ivy League institution that has released its fiscal 2014 figures so far. Financial experts interviewed applauded the continued success of the Yale Investments Office’s strategy.
Chief Investment Officer David Swensen could not be reached for comment.
University President Peter Salovey praised Swensen and his team at the Yale Investments Office, adding that the fiscal 2014 return is “impressive on an absolute and on a relative basis.”
“Generally, people say they’re among the very best,” School of Management Professor Roger Ibbotson said. “Everybody basically considers it the Swensen model, and other endowments copy Yale.”
Yale’s endowment soared in the period leading up to the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, reaching a high water mark of $22.9 billion in fiscal 2008. But over the course of the next year, the University’s assets lost nearly a quarter of their value.
During that time, the Yale Model — an investment strategy characterized by an emphasis on diversification and a heavy reliance on alternative, illiquid asset classes — came under heavy criticism, especially as smaller endowments with larger allocations in public stocks and bonds recovered more quickly.
Still, the University’s endowment has made a strong rebound, and this year, the University benefited from investment gains of approximately $4.0 billion net of spending.
Though the endowment’s losses during the recession caused a large central operating deficit, this gap between revenue and expenses has become smaller in recent years.
Provost Benjamin Polak said fiscal 2014’s high returns on the University’s assets helped to reduce the central operating deficit for that year.
According to the Investment Office’s statement, spending from the endowment to support the University in fiscal 2015 is projected to be $1.1 billion, representing approximately 34 percent of Yale’s net revenues. Endowment support to the operating budget has nearly doubled over the last 10 years.
According to preliminary estimates from Cambridge Associates, an institutional-investment adviser firm, colleges and universities have reported an average return of 16.2 percent for fiscal 2014.
With the exception of Harvard, which reported Tuesday that its assets returned 15.4 percent in fiscal 2014, all other Ivy League schools that have released their latest figures have bested that figure.
Three weeks ago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said its assets returned 19.2 percent over the past year. Dartmouth earned the same return, while the University of Pennsylvania’s endowment grew by 17.5 percent.
Yale’s longer term returns remain in the top tier of institutional investors, according to the press release. Yale’s endowment returned an average of 11.0 percent per year over the 10 years ending June 30, 2014. This surpassed broad market results for domestic stocks, which returned 8.4 percent annually, and for domestic bonds, which returned 4.9 percent annually, according to the statement.
William Jarvis ’77, managing director of the Commonfund Institute, noted that Yale’s returns were largely driven by private equity and natural resources, which account for roughly 40 percent of the University’s portfolio.
The other 60 percent is divided among six other asset classes, including absolute return, domestic equity and real estate.
“I think the message … is diversification,” Jarvis said. “I think that’s an important part of the wisdom in structuring long-term portfolios.”
The Investments Office press release also noted that relative to the estimated 7.6 percent average return of college and university endowments over the past 10 years, Yale’s investment performance has produced $8.4 billion in added value over the same period.
Though Ibbotson said many endowments and institutional investors try to imitate Yale’s model, he noted that it is harder to copy the skill required to successfully implement such a strategy.
“Everybody else wants to be like Yale, but the question is whether they have the ability to do that,” he said.
Jarvis agreed, adding that though Yale’s strong returns may cause some investors to look more favorably on the model, these investors should be wary of trying to imitate Yale without Yale’s resources.
Yale’s endowment return in fiscal 2013 was 12.5 percent, growing the University’s assets to $20.8 billion.