Kai Nip, Contributing Photographer

At 41.4 billion dollars, Yale’s endowment is the third-largest of all American universities. Now, the school’s investment office may have a pipeline for fresh talent. 

The School of Management announced the creation of the Swensen Asset Management Institute last spring after receiving a $20 million donation from an anonymous donor.

“By codifying David Swensen’s legacy into a permanent institute and program, we hope to help SOM define the future of asset management,” Kerwin K. Charles, dean of the SOM, wrote to the News.

Swensen served as Yale’s chief investment officer from 1985 until his death in 2021. During Swensen’s timestry-wide priority shift from traditional assets — stocks and bonds — to “alternative assets,” such as international stock funds, emerging market funds and real estate. Yale’s investment approach under Swensen became known as the “Swensen Model.” 

In addition to establishing the institute itself, the anonymous donation will be used to start an endowment fund to support the institute’s activities. It will also enable “the creation of a new endowed professorship, additional scholarship funding, and innovative programming aimed at enhancing the practice of asset management,” according to the institute’s website.

Tobias J. Moskowitz, a finance professor, will serve as the institute’s inaugural director. Moskowitz, a scholar of financial markets and investments, collaborated with Swensen to develop Yale’s Master’s Degree in Asset Management in 2019.

“The Swensen Asset Management Institute will attract researchers and practitioners to SOM who understand finance’s vital role in supporting our critical institutions – such as endowments, pension funds, and foundations – and their contribution to a thriving society,” Joel Getz, deputy dean for alumni, development and special initiatives, wrote to the News in an email.

He noted that the new institute’s activities will build on existing asset management efforts, such as those at the SOM’s International Center for Finance.

In his email to the News, Charles characterized asset management as a field where financial and societal interests are “inseparably intertwined.” He also wrote that effective and principled asset management serves all of society — not just business. 

Charles told the News that the institute’s activities include fortifying University endowments, ensuring the strength of funds that support individual retirement and allocating capital to high-growth businesses. 

“Perhaps most importantly, the institute formally brings together faculty with wide-ranging interests and affiliations within asset management, including behavioral finance, the history of finance, asset pricing, machine learning, financial regulation, art markets, and many other topics,” Charles said.

In addition to scholarly work, Charles mentioned the institute’s commitment to professional engagement around “big questions in the industry.”

Charles Skorina, an endowment expert and head of Charles A. Skorina & Co, a recruiting firm for investment officers, lauded the move as a method of cultivating Yale’s future asset managers. 

“Yale has a pretty good pipeline from their students as it is,” Skorina said. “I’m surprised more schools have not set up similar programs. This program will create considerable demand.”

Harvard, the University of Texas system, Stanford and Princeton, ranked one, two, four and five among American universities by their endowment sizes, respectively, do not have formal institutes for asset management.

University President Peter Salovey expressed excitement at the institute’s potential to expand Yalies’ future impact in the financial sector. 

“David Swensen transformed the way Yale managed its endowment and completely changed the field of institutional investing,” Salovey wrote when the institute was announced. “The Swensen Institute, created and named in his honor, will ensure future generations of leaders and investors can follow his example of outstanding investment performance, rigorous ethics, and open-hearted generosity.”

The largest individual donation Yale has ever received was a $250 million gift from Charles Johnson ’54 in 2013.

Esma Okutan is the graduate schools reporter for the News. Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, she is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards studying economics.
Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.