Friday, September 14, 2007

More on the departure of the Harvard endowment chief …

An article in the New York Times business section addresses the subject blogged here on September 12th, 2007. In particular, the inability of large university endowments to be able to keep top level talent for the adminstration of the foundation. The problem, as addressed by the article, “A dropout problem for Colleges,” by Jenny Anderson, is that “Being the chief investment officer of an endowment is one of the hardest jobs in the investment business because there are so many constituencies involved,” said Verne O. Sedlacek, president and chief executive of Commonfund and a former chief financial officer at Harvard Management Company. “In my job, I have 1,800 clients with one objective — investment performance. An endowment has one client with 1,800 objectives.”

Consider the constituencies: students who may want you to shed your holdings in companies that do business in Sudan because of the genocide in Darfur, or professors who do not make a lot of money and happen to have very specific expertise in just about everything. It is a clash of civilizations; liberal academia meets cold, crass capitalism.

“I’ve never been called names worse than those I was called by professors and others on campus,” one former endowment head said. “It gets personal very quickly.”

Thus, with all the economic world turmoil, and the different objectives for endowments, the job is at once coveted as prestigious, and unwanted as it is frightfully hard to keep everyone content.

Read the full article Here

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