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History

The founding of Commonfund is one of the exciting stories of innovation in financial institutions. To understand why, return to the late 1960s. In this era, investment returns from college endowments persistently lagged the rate of growth in operating budgets. There was increasing concern throughout higher education regarding the future vitality of private institutions. And, many institutions faced problems of faculty compensation and deferred maintenance. A final challenge was that traditional endowment management hampered trustees’ ability to address these issues.

But change was in the air. Thought leaders of the day were looking at the then-new concept of total return and thinking about relaxing the old personal trust discipline and allowing a college to set its own spending rate. One study, Managing Educational Endowment, concluded that poor results were due to placing a primary emphasis on avoiding losses and maximizing current income. The Ford Foundation sponsored a landmark study, The Law and the Lore of Endowment Funds, published in 1969, that served as a further catalyst for action.

Out of this came a Ford Foundation grant of $2.8 million for the founding of The Common Fund for Nonprofit Organizations (Commonfund). Two years later, July, 1, 1971, The Common Fund was officially founded. Of the $2.8 million, $500,000 was earmarked for research and publications — a tradition that continues today. By the end of 1971, a total of 72 endowments had invested $63 million. We also launched our first investment fund, the Multi-Strategy Equity Fund.

Milestones

Over the years, Commonfund has grown and expanded the range of investment funds and supporting services it offers its clients. Along the way, key milestones in the history of Commonfund include: 
 

1971

“The Common Fund” commences operation (the organization adopted the trade name “Commonfund” in 1998)

The first fund, the Multi-Strategy Equity Fund, is launched

1973

First research report published, creating a continuing legacy of research and publications

1976

Introduction of first endowment fixed income fund, the Multi-Strategy Bond Fund

1982

Early leader in diversifying equity portfolio using hedging strategy

1983

International Equity Fund launch establishes Commonfund as a pioneer in international investing

1985

Launch of Global Bond Fund takes Commonfund into foreign fixed income markets

1988

Commonfund Capital, Inc. and Commonfund Realty, Inc. (originally combined as Endowment Advisers, Inc.) are created to access opportunities in venture capital, domestic private equity, international private capital, energy and commercial real estate

The Allocation Planning Model (APM), a computerized tool for simulating endowment performance under a range of asset allocation variables, is developed and made available to clients

1989

Commonfund Capital launches first energy fund

Commonfund makes first investment in distressed debt as an allocation within the Multi-Strategy Bond Fund

1991

Commonfund enters alternative investments area

1992

A series of focused equity and fixed income funds introduced

1993

Development of Endowment Institute, a seminar for senior financial officers and trustees held annually

1994

Commonfund expands presence in alternative investments with introduction of Hedge Fund

 

Small cap equity funds introduced

1996

First Commonfund Prize for investment research is announced

1998

Launch of initial online access tools

1999

Expansion to provide service to Canadian educational institutions

Mission broadened to include nonprofit foundations and healthcare organizations

2000

Treasury Institute and Commonfund Institute are formed

First Commonfund Forum is held

 2001

Commonfund Benchmarks Study® is published

Introduced Commonfund Strategic Solutions®

2002

Commonfund Allocation Planning ModelTM launched

2005

Introduced commodities investment program

2008

Introduced Separate Account Management

2009

Introduced Commonfund Treasury AccessTM Cash Management Platform

2010

Introduced Multi-Asset Platform and Custom Investment Office ("CIO")

Expanded clients served to include pension funds, family offices and select other long term investors

2011

Issued the first Global Economic and Investment Outlook

Issued the first Client Investment Sentiment Survey

​2007 ​Opened Commonfund's first international office in London
​2010 ​Opened its second international office in Beijing
​Introduced Commonfund Multi-Asset Platform
​2014 ​Officially launched Hedge FundDirect