Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Harvard Will Invest the Yale Way

In a move Jim Gust has frequently deplored, some years ago Harvard laid off its endowment's "overpaid" investment whiz. The endowment's returns have suffered. Now Harvard has decided to try the Yale model: a small in-house staff overseeing the efforts of carefully selected outside investment managers. (The system works great when the selecting is done by Yale's David Swensen.)

Take a second look at the Yale Daily News article linked above. Strikes me as pretty professional. Better than I'm likely to read in our local paper.

Who's Jinghi Cui, the student journalist? Glad you asked. She's a Yale soph who graduated from the Experimental High School attached to Beijing University. You pronounce her name JING-ee SOO-ee.

Here's another example of her reporting, this time on the pension burdens borne by Yale and other universities. Does any large private or public employer not have a pension problem?


Jim Gust said...

My impression is that most private employers do not have a pension problem, most public employers do.

The big reason most private pensions are OK is ERISA. It required better funding, and it also provided the escape hatch of 401(k) plans. Many private employers have switched to the 401(k) model for new employees, eliminating future pension risk. For those who have reasonably funded plans, the booming stock market has been a big help. Some private plans are now overfunded.

Public employers have not joined the march away from pensions, and there is nothing like ERISA governing their plans. So they have been allowed to chronically underfund, and thus also fail to participate in stock market gains. Underfunded pensions of the cities and state workers will destroy CT in a few more years.

Why couldn't Yale just move $1 billion from their endowment to fully fund their pensions? Must be some political reasons why that approach is not taken.

Jim Gust said...

Curious that Ms. Cui does not mention the compensation controversy that led to Meyer's ouster at Harvard. She does report on the justification for avoiding competitive compensation in-house, which strikes me as preposterous.

I continue to believe that one key reason for outsourcing investments is to hide the cost of investment management from the alumni, who will only see the net returns.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I too wondered why Yale couldn't easily move a billion to fund pensions.