For the alternative-investment industry the takeaway from the NACUBO-Commonfund Study this year may be that there is a long-term trend among endowments toward increased allocations to alternative strategies, and that this trend continues. The overall such allocation increased by one percentage point from 2011 to 2012: to 54 percent.
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Among the endowments for institutions of higher learning tracked by NACUBO-Commonfund, the allocation to alternative investments [defined to include hedge funds, private equity, global venture capital, and private equity real estate investments] has been on the rise for a decade now, especially among the larger cohorts. The preliminary data for 2012 indicates that this trend continues. It also indicates that these endowments on average are losing money on their portfolios.
Data on the endowments of institutions of higher learning shows a significant spread between the performance of the largest endowments and the lagging performance of the smaller. The return that endowments received on their use of alternative strategies, too, depends in part upon the size of the endowment doing the investing. Endowments under $25 million in assets under management made only 9.5 percent on this asset class in FY 2011, while those with more than $1 billion in AUM made a 16.9 percent return hunting in the same jungles.