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Cornell Posts 12.5% Gain After ‘Comprehensive’ Endowment Review

  • Review was aimed at boosting performance, reducing fees
  • Fund has lowest long-term returns among 8 Ivy League schools

Cornell University said its endowment posted an investment gain of 12.5 percent in the year through June, following a “comprehensive” review of the investments and management of the fund.

“These efforts are intended to boost performance over time, increase endowment flexibility, reduce fees and increase responsiveness to changing investment trends,” the Ithaca, New York-based school said Friday in a statement.

While Cornell didn’t provide details of the review, the initiatives helped the endowment’s performance, Chief Investment Officer Kenneth Miranda said in the statement.

Cornell has been a perpetual underperformer within the eight-member Ivy League. In fiscal 2016, the fund produced the lowest return among the group. It also had the worst three-, five- and 10-year annualized returns among the Ivies through June 2016, according to the most recent data for all the schools.

Among the three other Ivies to report so far, Dartmouth College leads with a 14.6 percent gain while Harvard University is the lowest with an 8.1 percent return. The average return for more than 400 endowments and foundations is 12.7 percent, according to early data by Cambridge Associates.

The value of Cornell’s endowment climbed to a record $6.8 billion. The fund benefited from gains in global equity markets, particularly in Europe and in emerging economies, and by its private equity investments, the school said. The S&P 500 Index returned 18 percent in fiscal 2017.

See our QuickTake on endowments here

Fiscal 2017 was the first year with Miranda at the helm. He came to Cornell from the International Monetary Fund, where he directed the investment office. Until his appointment as CIO, Miranda was a member of Cornell’s investment committee.

Miranda said in the statement that fiscal 2017 was a transitional year for the endowment and the staff “as they implemented significant changes to portfolio strategy” and moved the investment office from Ithaca to New York.

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