investment strategy | Insights Blog

Should We Issue an Investment Manager RFP? 7 Key Considerations

Best practice for nonprofits is to issue a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) for an investment management partner every market cycle. Typically, that is at least every 7 to 10 years, or as it is...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Balancing Purpose, Payout, and Permanence: A Strategy Guide for Foundations

In partnership with the Council on Foundations, the National Center for Family Philanthropy has released Balancing Purpose, Payout, and Permanence: A Strategy Guide. Commonfund Institute is very...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Chart of the Month | Inflation Expectations Surge, Driving Real Interest Rates Down

Chairman Powell’s speech at Jackson Hole during the last week of August confirmed the Fed’s dovish policy stance, giving investors ample support in terms of low rates and a flexible inflation...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Observations on Diverse Manager Selection Across Asset Classes

At Commonfund, we believe diverse managers offer clients access to investment talent and valuable investment opportunities and therefore should be explored and invested in. Overlooking the merits of...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Capturing Credit Opportunities in Times of Crisis

Key takeaways During periods of dislocation in high-quality credit, investors should  stay the course within fixed income portfolios and maintain active risk to benefit from the inevitable rebound...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Real Estate – Can’t Touch This!

Few markets have been as heavily impacted by the onset of the global pandemic as real estate.  Real estate is considered a hard asset that “you can touch and feel”, but during a pandemic no one wants...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Balancing Risk and Return

Risk surrounds us, and for investment fiduciaries it is inescapable if meaningful real returns are to be sought. While risk and return constitute the axes upon which investment portfolios are built,...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Seven Ways to Diversify Your Private Capital Portfolio

A strong private capital program requires consistent, diversified investing over time. It is also necessary to have— or obtain externally— resources for research and due diligence before you invest;...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Crisis Response: A Framework for Strategic Decisions

With the equity markets retracing some of the losses that occurred in the first calendar quarter of 2020, endowment market values are likely recovering more quickly than we may have feared during the...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Do Bear Markets Favor Active or Passive Investing? It Depends.

In the ongoing debate about active versus passive investing, conventional wisdom posits that active investing outperforms passive in recessionary or bear market environments. The question is: Will...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Coronavirus: Five Key Questions for Nonprofit Institutions

There is no question that we are in unprecedented times and will likely remain so for longer than we anticipated even a few weeks ago. The speed at which a new reality has been imposed on all of us...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Long-Term Equity Investors: A Global Perspective

Over the past decade U.S. equities have consistently outperformed international markets, leading many investors to question the role of non-U.S. equities in their portfolio. While the current cycle...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Commonfund’s First Invitational Diverse Manager Day

On January 16th Commonfund held its first invitational Diverse Manager Day. The day was made possible as a result of the success we had from submissions to the Diverse Manager Portal launched last...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

2020 Investor Survey: Private Markets Sentiment

For the third year in a row, Commonfund Capital conducted a year-end annual survey of institutional investors to gauge their sentiment about private market investments. Survey responses totaled 267...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Impact Investing - A Market Matures

Investment strategy influenced by altruistic intentions – broadly, impact investing – has long held sway in a small number of portfolios. Historically, impact investing has failed to gain significant...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Tactical Allocation: Winning Strategy or a Fool’s Game?

Institutional investors overseeing long-term pools of capital typically define their strategic asset allocation with specific targets and bands or ranges around those targets, which allow for...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Announcing the Commonfund Diverse Manager Portal

In the fall of 2018, Commonfund announced the creation of its Diversity and Inclusion Office with the mission to “intentionally promote and foster inclusion and equity across Commonfund and our...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Looking at Gender Lens Investing

What is Gender Lens Investing? Gender lens investing has garnered significant traction in the last decade. Broadly speaking, gender lens investing aims to achieve financial returns and benefit...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Diverse and Emerging Manager Programs: Worth Doing Well

Michael Rowland is the Commonfund Institute Summer Intern.  He is a rising senior at Case Western Reserve University. He is majoring in Finance and Accounting.  What are Diverse and Emerging Manager...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Recession – Maybe This Time is Different

The July Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) meeting signaled the end of central bank rate normalization with the first rate cut in more than a decade. The last time the FOMC cut rates was in...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Investment Manager Fees Part II: Creating Alignment

In Part I of this blog series, “Investment Manager Fees: Out of Sight, Out of Mind”, we discussed our approach to determining the value of an asset manager and how we might calculate a fair price for...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Investment Manager Fees: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

One of the most pressing questions facing fiduciaries is that of investment management fees. We think it is a healthy and necessary discussion, as even small fees can have a big impact on performance...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Taking a Fresh Look at Spending Models

Investors have limited control over the returns their portfolios generate. They have more control over their spending. That doesn’t make it easy. Compared to some earlier periods, volatility in the...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

The Fallacy of Manager Diversification – How “Horse Races” Can Increase, Not Reduce Risk

On the surface, hiring two (or more) multi-asset managers to manage an entire portfolio may seem like a good idea. Intuitively, it would seem to reduce manager concentration risk, and provide...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Getting Started in Responsible Investing

The biggest challenge in implementing any type of responsible investment program is in clearly defining and prioritizing those issues most relevant to an organization. Although it may seem a...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Stormy Markets, Steady Institutional Investors

This blog is reprinted with permission by Net Assets, published by the National Business Officers Association (NBOA).  The original article can be found here. Investment guidelines enable...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

A Cost-Effective Approach to Hedge Fund Allocations: Part 2

Let’s start with a quick recap of Part 1 of this story, which can be boiled down to three main points:  Investors often spend too much for market beta, paying “2 and 20” for hedge funds that deliver...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

A Cost-Effective Approach to Hedge Fund Allocations: Part 1

At the risk of beating a dead horse, hedge funds are not an asset class.  This is especially true in the way in which Commonfund selects and constructs its hedge fund portfolios: focusing...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Are You Ready for the Next Crisis?

Ten years ago Lehman Brothers failed, representing the largest bankruptcy in history, and accelerating a global financial crisis that would knock many non-profit portfolios backward. This came on the...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Five Questions to Ask Your Advisor: Costs of Portfolio Management

Costs matter. With expectations for lower market returns over the coming years, every basis point of net performance is particularly important. Furthermore, the compounding effect of high fees can...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

The Four P’s of Investment Decisions: Lessons from the Commonfund Institute

Three days after becoming Executive Director of the Commonfund Institute, I found myself at Yale University in New Haven giving welcoming remarks at our annual educational program.  Although I will...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Equity Portfolio Construction – Through a Risk Factor Lens

At Commonfund, we aim to build multi-manager, active risk equity portfolios with a clear objective of consistent outperformance versus passive policy benchmarks. Our approach is to take intentional...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Bonds: Unwanted and Unloved but not Unnecessary

Well, the party may finally be over. Like the college dean who shuts down the campus party, the Fed has finally taken away the interest rate punch bowl that investors have enjoyed for so long. It may...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Real Estate Credit Environment: Risk Off - Risk On

Earlier last year real estate markets received a scare as CMBS spreads widened, particularly in lower rated and more junior tranches.  Additionally, one of the most respected U.S. real estate...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Investing in Diversity

At Commonfund, we scour the globe to find investment managers that we believe have the ability to consistently produce excess returns (alpha) over and beyond their benchmark. But alpha alone is not...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Baring Their Teeth – FAANGs Take a Bite Out of the Equity Market

Narrow market leadership in the U.S. and Emerging Markets proves challenging for active managers Narrow markets are not uncommon to equity investors. They tend to manifest themselves during the best...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

A Gap In Reality

With the release of the annual NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments (NCSE) comes the obligatory comparison of 1-year returns. “How did we do relative to the 12.2 percent average return” is a...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

When Leaks Turn into Floods: Challenges Facing Higher Education

2017’s tax legislation is the latest in a growing list of challenges facing higher education. The new excise taxes on endowment earnings of the largest private universities, coupled with the...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Bonds May Not Be Loved, But They Shouldn't Be Forgotten

Summary TODAY, THERE IS A GOOD DEAL OF HAND WRINGING OVER THE RISK OF RISING RATES. WHILE RISING LONG-TERM RATES COULD BE A HEADWIND FOR CORE FIXED INCOME, AS LONG AS RATES RISE FAIRLY MODESTLY THE...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Spending Policy: Is Yours Ready for the Next Downturn?

In most Investment Policy Statements there is often a reference to two important, but conflicting, objectives: one, to preserve the purchasing power of the long-term portfolio in real terms, and two,...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Emerging Market Equities Turn the Corner

As we progress through calendar year 2017, we have witnessed the continuation of the equity bull market started in 2009. One difference however, is that leadership has turned (finally!) to non-U.S...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

On Complacency | Why Risk Management Always Matters

Like nearly everything in the financial markets, risk is cyclical.  History repeats itself.  The echoes of past crises are always heard in present ones, yet new crises are rarely predicted and not...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

How Much Beta is in Your Equity Portfolio?

Leveling the Field in the “Tug of War” Between Active and Passive… Active Equity Manager Universal Objective: Outperform the Passive Alternative It’s undeniable that every active equity manager’s...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Making the Case for Natural Resources Investing

The natural resources sector is often characterized as cyclical, as producers and service providers experience underlying exposure to and commensurate volatility of commodities in the oil and gas,...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Thoughts on the Role of Credit in Institutional Portfolios

While most institutional portfolios have allocations to investment grade corporate credit, as a strategic allocation high yield and emerging market credit (liquid credit) are sometimes overlooked....
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Flexing Your Global Portfolio Can Lead to ACWI Fatigue, but Don't Throw in the Towel Yet

Like the build-up of lactic acid in your muscles after a strenuous workout, the underperformance of Morgan Stanley Capital International All Country World index (MSCI ACWI) vs. the Standard & Poor’s...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Active Fee Management: Notes from the Front Lines

Few topics get investors’ attention as much as fees.  We wouldn’t be human if we all didn’t want to know, in detail, how much something costs.  In the world of investing, fees are an even more...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Maintaining Purchasing Power in Today’s Environment | CPI + 5%

At Commonfund, we understand the challenge institutions face of maintaining the purchasing power of their endowment. In fact, achieving a rate of return sufficient to cover inflation, distributions...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

The Crowded Liquidity Trade

The liquidity markets have experienced one of the largest disruptions since the inception of SEC Rule 2a-71 in the early 1970’s.  Over the past few months, we have seen a massive shift of investor...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Long-Term Trends for Long-Term Investors

Nonprofit institutions have the distinct advantage of having the longest time horizon of any investors – often perpetuity.  This affords an opportunity to consider investments based on secular trends...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

What do the Cable Television and Hedge Fund Industries Have in Common?

These industries may seem an odd pairing, but both are in the midst of a disruption-led, industry-wide rationalization process. The two industries share in common a historically evolved “bundling”...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Private Credit Opportunities – Direct Lending to U.S. Middle Market Companies

Much has been made of the challenges endowment, foundation and nonprofit investors face in achieving a CPI+ five percent return target. One way to improve the probability of attaining this goal is to...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Healthcare Endowment Management: 3 Questions to Consider

Mounting cost pressures are forcing small and mid-sized nonprofit healthcare organizations to consider adopting endowment management practices similar to those used elsewhere in the nonprofit sector....
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Drafting Your Investment Policy Statement: 10 Critical Issues

Endowed institutions differ in their missions, capabilities and resources, and investment policy statements naturally mirror these differences.  In that sense, there is no single ‘right’ investment...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Venture Capital - Looking Forward and Upward

Beginning in the second half of 2015, there was growing caution that started to impact pricing and investment activity in early 2016. This valuation cooling period and subsequent shift in mindset...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

A False Sense of Diversification?

As we have undergone the process of re-underwriting all of Commonfund’s equity managers and funds over the last 6 months, we have tackled anew the age old question of how many funds does one...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Real Estate – Rates, Rates, Rates

“There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location”. While the age-old adage still holds in many respects, real estate risks, as with the risks associated with all asset...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

It's Not Easy Being Active

It’s not easy being an active equity manager these days. As the chart below depicts, active managers have just come through the worst period for returns in several decades. The chart shows the...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Integration of ESG Factors in Practical Steps

In the current climate of slow global economic growth and resource constraints at many institutions, integration of ESG considerations in an organization’s investment portfolio may be perceived as a...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Common Concerns about Responsible Investing

Discussions about whether responsible investing strategies help or hurt investment performance are complicated by the fact that, there are several broad categories of responsible investing practice...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Operating Charity Implements a Risk-Based Investment Policy

An operating charity in the Northeast is in the process of implementing a risk-based investment policy for its $30 million endowment. The organization’s seven-member Investment Committee includes...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

What is an OCIO?

Outsourced investment management, once primarily a solution for small institutions with limited resources, is now used by a broad range of long-term investors. When properly implemented, outsourcing...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Hedge Funds: How Many (or Few) Does it Take?

It’s straightforward to get an answer to that question, at least superficially: draw at random from a manager universe, build hypothetical portfolios with the selected managers, track performance,...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Is Currency an Asset Class?

Currency risk can best be described as the surprise impact that currency exposure has on an investment portfolio. Although currency risk typically confounds investors, it is easy to measure – it is...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Size: It's Complicated

Assets under management (AUM) among hedge funds has always been characteristically top-heavy, with the majority of capital in the hands of a relatively small number of managers. While the hedge fund...
investment strategy | Insights Blog

Calculating Investment Management Costs

The following methodology may be of use in helping you to understand more fully what your organization pays for investment management costs. Identify the fees you pay at the overall portfolio level...