Though well below its 20 percent return for fiscal 2014, the Yale endowment’s 11.5 percent growth in 2015 has once again placed it among the top tier of institutional investors.
On Thursday, the University announced that the Yale Investments Office had beaten market estimates to post a return of 11.5 percent, bringing Yale’s 20-year performance to 13.7 percent per annum. Over the past fiscal year, which ended on June 30, the Yale endowment grew from $23.9 billion to $25.6 billion, bringing the value of this financial resource to a historic nominal high and crossing the $25 billion threshold.
Further, Yale’s investment returns for 2015 bested many of its peer institutions, including the two universities with assets larger in value than that of Yale’s. Harvard, whose endowment now stands at $37.6 billion, rose 5.8 percent and the University of Texas System, which holds $26.6 billion in assets, reported a weighted 3.5 percent return for its two funds.
“The University benefited from investment gains of approximately $2.6 billion,” a Thursday press release from the University stated. “Yale’s spending and investment policies provide substantial support to the operating budget for current scholars, while preserving endowment purchasing power for future generations.”
Yale’s performance also handily beat many of the industry averages released, including the 3.6 percent median return for endowments with more than $500 million in value, according to an estimate by the Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service. The 11.5 percent return also outpaced the preliminary 5.6 percent average return for endowments over $3 billion, which was reported by Cambridge Associates, a leading investment advisor to foundations and endowments.
The endowment provides critical resources for the University and for the 2016 fiscal year, spending from the endowment is projected to be $1.2 billion, which accounts for more than a third of the University’s net revenues. This endowment distribution has nearly doubled in the past decade and is used for such priorities as “meeting full financial need of every student enrolled in Yale College,” the release stated.
Over the long term, many of Yale’s asset classes beat their benchmarks. Domestic equities returned 12.3 percent, beating the benchmark by 4.1 percent annually and foreign equities produced 17.4 percent returns, outpacing the benchmark by 8.4 percent annually. Real estate, which accounts for 13 percent of Yale’s portfolio for fiscal 2016, returned 6.2 percent and natural resources, which make up 8.5 percent of the portfolio, posted returns of 10.5 percent.
The top performing asset class listed, however, was venture capital, which returned 18 percent — nudging out the returns on foreign equities and accounting for 16 percent of the Yale portfolio, the report stated.
Yale’s 2015 returns fall largely in line with many of the estimates made by experts in the prior weeks.
“It will be reasonable to expect these returns to come down from last year,” said Massachusetts Institute of Technology Finance professor Andrew Lo ’80. “It doesn’t mean there is any kind of underperformance or anything wrong, it just means we are getting back to a normal state of affairs.”