Investment beliefs of endowments

American university and college endowments now hold close to one-third of their portfolios in private equity and hedge funds. We estimate the implied beliefs of endowments about alternative assets’ returns relative to equities and bonds. At the end of 2012, the typical endowment believes that its private equity investments will outperform a portfolio of conventional assets by 3.9% per year and that hedge funds will outperform by 0.7% per year. Out-performance beliefs, particularly for private equity, have increased since 2006.There are significant cross-sectional differences in beliefs and trends: private universities are, on average, less risk averse and have more optimistic beliefs and universities with larger endowments, higher spending rates, and those that rely more on the endowment tomeet operational budgets tend to believe that alternatives deliver higher alphas. Taking into account the implied equity exposures in alternative asset positions, the effective equity holding of endowments is approximately 60%.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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