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Yale's Endowment Fund Is at the Bottom of Ivy League Heap So Far

Janet Lorin

(Bloomberg) -- Yale’s endowment finds itself in an unfamiliar spot: last in the Ivy League.

The school, whose pioneering investment strategy has been widely copied over the years, posted a 5.7% return in fiscal 2019, according to a statement on Friday. That’s less than half of Brown University’s 12.4% gain, which is leading the five of eight Ivies that’ve reported so far.

Yale, led by chief investment officer David Swensen, had a sizable allocation of its fund in foreign equities in 2018, at 15.3%, as did other big endowments. The school put only 3.5% of its fund in U.S. stocks. An index of international stocks lost money in the year ended June 30, while U.S. equities rose.

The school in New Haven, Connecticut, was the second-best performer of the group over five years as of 2018. Swensen was an early investor in private equity, which helped drive long-term returns. Yale had 26% of its endowment allocated to hedge funds and 19% in venture capital last year.

The endowment, with $30.3 billion in assets as of fiscal 2019, is among the biggest in the U.S.

Yale’s target allocation for fiscal 2020 adds more to venture capital, at 21.5% of the fund, and lightens up on foreign equities and hedge funds strategies. Domestic equities is a mere 2.75%. The endowment has strong long-term results: It’s returned 11.1% over the 10 years through June and its value nearly doubled from $16.3 billion. Over 20 years, it’s averaged 11.4% gains.

Spending from the endowment -- which is the largest source of revenue for the university and supports faculty salaries, student scholarships, and other expenses -- for Yale’s 2020 fiscal year is projected to be $1.4 billion, representing approximately 34% of the school’s net revenue.

More top schools will post returns in coming weeks. Those already reporting are below.

Note: Fiscal year ends June 30

(Updates with Duke returns in chart.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Janet Lorin in New York at jlorin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Mirabella at amirabella@bloomberg.net, Vincent Bielski, Josh Friedman

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