Robert Wallace ’02, former senior associate at the Yale Investments Office, has been named the new head of the Stanford University endowment.
On Monday, Stanford announced that Wallace would become president and CEO of the Stanford Management Company, the body responsible for investing and managing Stanford’s $21.4 billion endowment. Wallace, who most recently served as chief investment officer and CEO of London-based investment firm Alta Advisers, will succeed John Powers, who led the Stanford endowment for nine years. Wallace’s appointment follows a broader trend of former Yale Investments Office alumni gaining experience under Chief Investment Officer David Swensen before going on to manage the endowments of peer institutions.
“The Stanford endowment is a critical resource for the university’s present and future students and scholars,” Wallace said in a statement released by Stanford. “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to lead Stanford Management Company and to contribute to such an important mission and institution.”
Before graduating summa cum laude with a degree in economics, Wallace gained experience at the YIO as an intern and later worked full-time at the office for nearly three years.
According to the NACUBO-Commonfund survey — the most comprehensive annual report on higher education endowments — Wallace will be the fourth former YIO team member to currently head one of the 10 largest endowments in the U.S. The list includes Seth Alexander ’95, president of MIT Investment Management Co.; Peter Ammon GRD ’05 SOM ’05, CIO of the University of Pennsylvania; and Andrew Golden SOM ’89, president of the Princeton University Investment Co. Jane Mendillo ’80 SOM ’84, who was a manager in the YIO from 1980 to 1982, served as the president and CEO of the Harvard Management Corporation before stepping down at the end of 2014.
“The Yale Investments Office has for a few decades now been regarded as the one of the leading — if not the leading — university investment offices in the world,” said William Jarvis ’77, managing director of the Commonfund Institute. “The individuals who have worked there have received probably some of the best training that can be received in the strategic and operational aspects of managing a perpetual endowment fund. Therefore it would be surprising if individuals who had trained there were not considered very good candidates for positions at other leading endowments.”
Despite former YIO alumni going on to lead the endowments of peer institutions, Jarvis said there is no guarantee these investors will directly replicate Yale’s strategies in their new role.
Jarvis said Yale’s general investment strategy is already publicly available through Swensen’s book, “Pioneering Portfolio Management.” However, the key of the YIO’s success is that within that general strategy, it is constantly innovating and seeking new ideas of implementing these concepts, Jarvis added.
“That principle of innovation will be carried out in different ways at each institution depending on that institution’s endowment characteristic, institutional needs, liquidity needs, governance models and other factors,” Jarvis said.
Provost Benjamin Polak said Yale has historically done a little better than other endowments mainly because the University has the best endowment managers in the world. He added that even if strategies of the YIO are adopted by other institutions, this sharing of ideas is ultimately in line with Yale’s larger mission as an institution of higher education.
“One thing that Yale does is disseminate knowledge,” Polak said in an interview in November. “So it is wonderful that our investment office disseminates knowledge as well.”
Wallace has overseen a global, multi-asset-class investment program at Alta since 2005. He also serves on the investment committee of the University of Cambridge