The Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) runs its $400m investments portfolio like a multi-billion-dollar endowment.
They have adopted an investment strategy that is more active than passive, emphasizes alternative investments like hedge funds and private equity, and targets geographies and asset classes not typically found in community foundation portfolios in the US.
The result is a portfolio that looks like that of an endowment more than twice the size of OCCF.
According to a recent Institutional Investor article OCCF are not alone in taking such an approach amongst the smaller Foundations found in the US.
The Institutional Investor article emphasises that not all Foundations and Charities can look like Yale and consider the Endowment Fund model.
Having said that, smaller Funds can take the learnings from the larger Endowments and should look to access a more diverse range of investment strategies.
Size should not be an impediment to investing with great managers and implementing more advanced and diversified investment strategies.
As the article also highlights, many Foundations and Charities have a long-term endowment. Often when you take a closer look at the Foundations and Charities endowments and cashflows they have a profile that is well suited to an endowment model.
They key benefits of the Endowment model include less risk being taken and the implementation of a more diversified investment strategy, delivering a more stable return profile.
This is attractive to donors.
According to the article, OCCF’s “investment performance over the past four-and-a-half years has encouraged more contributions from donors — and this increase in donations, combined with the above-benchmark returns, has enabled the foundation to pay out more grants and scholarships without sacrificing growth.”
What did OCCF do?
After a review of the OCCF’s investments their asset consultant, Cambridge Associates, helped them develop a new investment strategy allocation plan that was more diversified and contained higher exposures to alternative investments.
Cambridge Associations determined that OCCF had large enough long-term pools and high enough donations coming in to support more illiquid investments in the private markets.
The foundation, which had a 2 percent allocation to private equity in 2015, now has 8 percent of its investable assets committed to private equity investments, with the eventual goal of scaling the asset class to 20 percent of the total portfolio.
Other changes included adopting a 10 percent target for real assets and 15 percent allocation to hedge funds.
OCCF has also started making co-investments — deals that are usually reserved for limited partners that can put up much larger amounts of capital.
The adoption of a more diversified portfolio not only make sense on a longer-term basis, but also given where we are in the current economic and market cycle.
The adoption of a more diversified portfolio not only makes sense on a longer-term basis, but also given where we are in the current economic and market cycle.
This is relevant in the current investment environment, the chorus of expected low returns over the years ahead has reached a crescendo and many are recommending moving away from the traditional Balanced Portfolio of equities and fixed income only.
The value is in implementation and sourcing the appropriate investment strategies.
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