When he took over the endowment in 1985, it was worth slightly more than $1bn. By June 30 of last year, it had reached $18bn. The best performing US endowment in that time, it has easily beaten the S&P 500 over that period, with staggeringly low volatility.
During the bear market of 2001-2002, reports Peter Bernstein in his recently published book Capital Ideas Evolving, Yale rose by 10 per cent while the S&P dropped 30 per cent.
“Investment management is a simple business,” he said. It came down to two principles. First, equities are best for the long run (proved by many surveys). “With a portfolio like Yale’s, with a time horizon measured in centuries, everyone would come to the same conclusion: it’s far better to have equities in your portfolio than bonds or cash.” By equity, he means any asset where there is a potential upside that can be taken by the investor.
His second principle is simpler: “Diversification is important.”