Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Skorina seeks CIO for $1.5 Billion portfolio

07 / 31 / 2018
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

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Alan Biller, why the OCIO business keeps growing. Endowment office costs cont.

10 / 27 / 2017
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

OCIO assets up over 21% in Skorina’s latest OCIO list!

Last month in our annual OCIO report, we listed OCIO assets up 18% from the prior year.  We promised to come back with some additional thoughts about the outsourcing decision for endowments, and here we are.

Now, with recent AUM updates as of June 30th from a few big OCIO providers, we’re reporting $1.7 Trillion in full-discretion assets under management by outsourced chief investment officer firms.

That’s a year-over-year jump of $364 billion – or a little over twenty one percent – since September 2016!

See our OCIO list from last week with these latest updates here:

Our headline now says that total outsourced AUM is up over 21 percent (about $364 billion) year-over-year by our reckoning -- but we didn’t hazard any guess about where all that money was coming from.

Our friend Dr. Alan Biller in Menlo Park, whose firm manages almost $40 billion on a full-discretion basis, has some thoughts on the matter.

We profiled Mr. Biller last year. See: Alan Biller: An accidental money manager


Alan, you deal with prospective OCIO clients on a daily basis.  What do you think is driving the growth in this niche?


The effort by corporate pensions to de-risk and off-load their retirement liabilities probably accounts for the lion’s share of the AUM growth, Charles. 

U.S. private pensions totaled about $25 trillion in assets as of year-end 2016 according to the latest OECD report (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).  


And endowments, foundations, health systems, charities, etc., account for maybe a tenth of that: $2 to $2.5 trillion.  So, that big jump you see in your list is bifurcated.  The growth rate for pension assets is probably well over 21 percent. The growth rate in E&F is, I suspect, more modest than that.

Pension investors can’t go to their employees for more money to meet unanticipated expenses, and they have no flexibility over distribution.  There are no rewards or promotions for meeting pension obligations; just the prospect of embarrassment if they can’t.  It’s understandable why they’re looking for ways to outsource the headaches!


OK, we get that the E&F sector is relatively small in the total institutional world and probably hasn’t contributed more than $10 or $20 billion to that year-over-year OCIO growth.  But they’re still very desirable clients to OCIO vendors.  And we know you talk to a lot of them.  What are they saying about their needs?


First, they’re worried about returns.  The last year has been great, but don’t forget that trailing 10-year returns have still been pretty poor for most institutions, with many falling short of their long-run targets.  Public market volatility has been high and, having been badly burned in 2009, they’re still worried about risk.

Meanwhile, university cost pressures are increasing, foundations struggle to maintain their level of grant-making, and health-delivery systems are being crushed under regulatory and pricing loads. 

All this is making it very tough for volunteer board members and trustees.  And you could add the rising emphasis on ESG and PRI investing (Environmental/Social/Governance and Principals of Responsive Investing).

There is a widening gap between the hours available from boards and committees on one hand, and the increasing complexity of their responsibilities.  I call it the “fiduciary gap.”  You referred to it as “meeting fatigue” in your last newsletter.  It’s the same thing.  There’s just so much you can reasonably ask of volunteer trustees who often have demanding day jobs.


There’s no doubt that ESG investing is more than a fad.  Just last month, Barnard College in New York switched their OCIO mandate from Investure to Strategic Investment Group because they needed more flexibility and expertise in that area to execute their divestment program.  That’s a $356 million pickup for SIG.


When I ask a visitor why they are thinking about OCIO, I’m seldom asked about my asset-allocation views, or which managers I use.   Their concerns are more fundamental than that. T hey want to know: How can I keep my money safe?

Pension plans worry about paying their retirees while staying solvent.  Endowments and foundations worry that they may have to cut programs if the markets turn sour.

The people I talk to have a lot of promises to keep in a very uncertain world.  They’re looking for someone they can trust.  All of the technical issues come much later in the conversation.


Endowment costs: A correction for Harvard

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Scott Wilson steps up: Washington U lands a prime Chief Investment Officer

09 / 14 / 2017
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

Scott Wilson steps up 

Washington University lands a prime Chief Investment Officer

Washington University in St. Louis has landed a splendid new chief investment officer for its $8 billion endowment: Scott L. Wilson of Grinnell College.

The hire was announced last week and conducted by WUSL's interim CIO and search committee chair Eric Upin.

Mr. Upin is a highly qualified CIO in his own right.  He's a Harvard MBA, former CIO of the Stanford endowment and, more recently, a senior partner and CIO at outsourcer Makena. (Check out Makena's standing in our updated OCIO list, coming next week!)

Mr. Wilson served for more than seven years at the $1.9 billion (FY 17) Grinnell College endowment in Iowa, including three years as CIO.  He's a Grinnell grad, and was working toward an MS in financial mathematics from the University of Chicago when he was transferred to Tokyo.

Before joining Grinnell he held a series of hands-on bond- and derivatives-trading jobs, including a long tour in Tokyo working for Bank of America and Barclay's Capital.  And every summer he likes to get away from it all by retreating to his cabin somewhere up a mountain side in a remote part of Alaska.

He arrives in St. Louis with the global perspective needed at a major endowment in this era.  We know, for instance, that he has been shifting equity money into ex-U.S. markets since 2014, including establishing a foothold in sub-Saharan Africa (through private-equity deals), where many have feared to tread.

Kim Walker departed St. Louis in December after a 10-year tour as founding CIO at the WU Investment Management Company.  She had no announced destination, and hasn't yet surfaced anywhere else.

For Mr. Wilson, who's still only 41, this is a big step up.  He's moving from the 63rd-largest to the 16th-largest endowment per our latest SEER rankings.  And he will undoubtedly see a commensurate jump in pay.

Our SEER numbers show Mr. Wilson with total comp of $562,117 in 2014, the latest period available.  Ms. Walker got $891,871 in the same period (which is a bit on the low side for a Top 20 endowment).  We would expect him to get a package totaling close to $2 million as he comes aboard this Fall.

See SEER pay rankings:

Five-year annualized performance for the two funds has been similar: 5.4 percent at Grinnell and 5.6 percent at WUSL.  But their allocations have been significantly different.

See SEER performance rankings:

Grinnell is heavier in equities than most big endowments, including WUSL.  That equity exposure worked for them in FY2015, when Grinnell returned a big 20.4 percent, ahead of all the Ivys, and tied with University of Minnesota for the best performance among Top 100 endowments.  Mr. Wilson has been lightening that equities bucket over the last two years, shifting more into alternatives, but it still stands at about 40 percent as of FY2016.

Mr. Wilson has also eschewed macro hedge funds at Grinnell, because it creates portfolio construction issues which make it very difficult for the investment office to return its cost of capital.  This may or may not be reflected in the WUSL allocations going forward.

Like most big endowments, both WUSL and Grinnell posted losses in FY2016, but Grinnell has come roaring back in FY 2017 with a return close to 19%, bringing their five-year return to an impressive 10%.  As we see from their target allocation below, Grinnell has been high in equities when it counted and low in real assets when the pickings were slim.

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Harvard Crimson: Harvard Management Company to Lay Off Half Its Staff

01 / 26 / 2017
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

1-26-17 Harvard Crimson: Harvard Management Company to Lay Off Half Its Staff

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President & Chief Investment Officer: Large multi-asset manager, western U.S.

11 / 27 / 2016
by Charles Skorina | Comments are closed

President & Chief Investment Officer: large multi-asset manager, western U.S.

We seek a seasoned, take-charge executive to guide and grow a substantial investment management firm.  

We want a leader with vision, ambition, and experience in managing a globally diversified endowment-style portfolio.

This is also an opportunity to achieve significant ownership participation in an established and profitable asset-management firm.

Compensation will be highly competitive.

Office: 415-391-3431

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