Harvard University posted an investment gain of 5.8 percent for the year ended June 30 as it continues to struggle to turn around performance since the credit crisis.
The endowment, the largest among U.S. universities, beat its benchmark by 190 basis points, according to a statement Tuesday by Harvard Management Co., the investing arm of the school based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The value of the endowment rose 3.3 percent to $37.6 billion. Over 10 years, the endowment returned 7.6 percent.
Stephen Blyth, who was promoted to chief executive officer of HMC in January, said in a letter that he is working to overhaul the endowment’s asset allocation framework, reinvigorate investment-decision making, and review compensation.
“After several years of necessarily dealing with the depths of the financial crisis and its aftermath, and the accompanying severe liquidity issues across the university as a whole, we are now in a position to harness that power to deliver on our objectives,” he wrote.
The top-performing asset class was real estate, which returned 19.4 percent, 790 basis points over the benchmark. Its private equity portfolio returned 11.8 percent, 110 basis points above the benchmark. The portfolio was dragged down by negative returns in foreign equity and emerging market equity, each losing about 2 percent. Its absolute return assets were about flat, missing the benchmark by 330 basis points.
The median return for endowments and foundations with more than $500 million this year is 3.6 percent, according to an estimate by Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service.
Harvard, once a trailblazer in the investment world, has trailed peers since 2009, when it posted an unprecedented 27 percent loss in the wake of the global credit crisis. Jane Mendillo, the former CEO who took over in the middle of the downturn, said in past annual reports that an overhang of poorly-performing illiquid assets in the portfolio was to blame for crimping performance.
Blyth was formerly head of public markets for the endowment. The university has also made changes on the board overseeing the fund, with a new chairman and new members. Andrew Wiltshire, the head of alternative investments, announced earlier this month he was retiring. The university hasn’t named a replacement.
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