Photographer: Michael Fein/Bloomberg

Harvard’s $35.7 Billion Endowment Names Nirmal Narvekar CEO

  • Narvekar had led Columbia’s $9.6 billion endowment since 2002
  • Columbia promotes CIO Peter Holland to chief executive officer

Harvard University named Nirmal P. “Narv” Narvekar to head its $35.7 billion endowment as the school struggles to get investment performance on track at the largest fund in higher education.

Narvekar, 54, who has been the CEO of Columbia University’s $9.6 billion fund since 2002, will assume the role of president and chief executive officer at Harvard Management Co. on Dec. 5, Harvard said in a statement Thursday. Columbia also said it promoted Peter Holland, the chief investment officer of its endowment since 2003, to CEO.

“Narv is a highly successful endowment manager with an outstanding 14-year track record heading a large endowment, providing steady leadership and delivering strong returns,” Paul Finnegan, chairman of the HMC board, said in the statement. “He is a superb leader and mentor with a proven ability to recruit, build and retain a talented and committed investment team.”

Delivered Results

Narvekar is a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. derivatives trader who overhauled Columbia’s endowment and built a team that delivered results on par with peers such as Yale University while minimizing losses in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008.

“He’s an independent thinker who spends a lot of time with his team,” said Robert Kasdin, a former senior executive vice president at Columbia who worked with Narvekar on the university’s investment committee. “He really thinks deeply about risk and correlations.”

Harvard’s search was its fourth for an endowment chief since 2005. Stephen Blyth, the former Deutsche Bank AG bond trader promoted to CEO, resigned for personal reasons in July after only 18 months following an unexpected and unexplained medical leave in May.

For an explainer on university endowments, click here

Harvard’s endowment on Sept. 22 reported a 2 percent annual investment loss. The fund declined by $1.9 billion to $35.7 billion after also accounting for ever-expanding spending on buildings, scholarships and research. Harvard blamed the outsize loss for the year ended June 30 primarily on poor investments in stocks as well as natural-resource holdings in South America.

Investment Experience

In the decade through June 2016, Harvard’s average annual return was 5.7 percent; Yale University’s was 8.1 percent. Columbia’s fund returned an average 10.1 percent in the 10 years through June 30, 2015, the latest available because the school hasn’t yet posted fiscal 2016 returns.

“I look forward to working with the HMC board and team and using my investment experience to serve Harvard in the most effective way possible,” Narvekar said in the statement.

In its statement, Columbia said Holland was with JPMorgan for 15 years, in the U.S. equities derivatives group from 1993 through 2003. Prior to that, he worked in JPMorgan’s private placement group and in investment banking. Holland graduated from Dartmouth College in 1987.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.