The Fisher Fine Arts Library, dedicated in 1891

Endowment and Investments

Endowment Overview:

The University of Pennsylvania’s endowment totaled $10.7 billion as of June 30, 2016, an increase of $581.8 million over the past year. Penn’s endowment is comprised of over 6,900 individual endowment funds benefiting the University’s schools, centers, and Health System.

The vast majority of Penn’s endowment is invested in the Associated Investments Fund (AIF), a pooled investment vehicle in which the many individual endowments and trusts hold shares or units. An Investment Board appointed by the Trustees of the University oversees the investment of the AIF. The University’s Office of Investments is responsible for the day-to-day management of the AIF and implements the policies approved by the Investment Board.

The purpose of Penn’s endowment is to provide stable and perpetual support for the mission and programs of the University. Achieving this objective requires an investment and spending program that supports intergenerational equity. The AIF must provide substantial and stable spending today, but it also must preserve purchasing power in order to provide comparable resources to future generations. Penn seeks to resolve the tension between these competing needs by investing in a diversified, equity oriented portfolio and by adhering to a disciplined spending rule that smoothes the impact of changes in AIF value on the operating budget.

Endowment Growth and AIF Payout ($ in millions)

The University’s endowment spending policy balances the objectives of maximizing budgetary support to endowed programs and maintaining purchasing power of the endowment into perpetuity. The actual payout in any given year is determined by a formula designed to smooth the impact of short-term changes in the endowment’s value on spending distributions. The spending rule target payout for fiscal 2016 was based on the sum of: (i) 70% of the prior fiscal year distribution adjusted by an inflation factor; and (ii) 30% of the lagged fiscal year-end fair value of the AIF, multiplied by 5.9% for financial aid funds and 4.7% for all other funds.

Payouts from the endowment provided $371.3 million in budgetary support to the University during the fiscal year. Spending support from the AIF for University operations has grown steadily over the past decade, increasing even through the financial crisis. For the year ended June 30, 2016, spending distributions of $365.4 million from the AIF supported approximately 12% of the University’s academic operating budget, up from less than 7% a decade ago.

The endowment supports a wide range of purposes across the institution, with the significant majority of funds dedicated to instructional use and student financial aid.

Endowment by Purpose - as of June 30, 2016

AIF Investment Program:

Penn builds its investment program around several simple tenets. First, in order to achieve the high returns necessary to preserve purchasing power after spending, the AIF is invested with a strong equity orientation. With the exception of fixed income, Penn expects that all asset classes in which it invests can earn equity-like returns over long periods of time. Second, Penn builds a portfolio that is diversified across different fundamental drivers of return. The University focuses on areas with the greatest inefficiencies across asset classes, strategies, and geographies. Finally, Penn capitalizes upon the perpetual nature of the University to invest with a long time horizon, creating a significant advantage relative to the many market participants who must focus on near-term certainty instead of long-term attractiveness when evaluating investments.

Penn has established a Strategic Asset Allocation (SAA), with investment class target ranges which represent reasonable allocation ranges for the portfolio in a normal environment. Portfolios within these ranges reflect the broad equity orientation and diversification that Penn seeks. The SAA guidelines consist of ranges rather than point targets to reflect the impossibility of knowing the future investment opportunity set facing the University. As the portfolio evolves towards the SAA ranges, Penn uses an Interim Policy Portfolio (IPP) to guide our asset allocation over shorter periods. Over time, we expect the IPP to approach the SAA ranges.

Penn revisits its asset allocation ranges and targets periodically to ensure that they appropriately reflect both the University’s long-term investment needs and the opportunity set facing Penn. The most recent review occurred in June 2016.

The evolution of Penn’s asset allocation towards a stronger equity orientation, greater diversification, and more inefficient markets has been steady over time.

The AIF portfolio includes investments in illiquid funds, some of which require Penn to make capital commitments that will be drawn down and invested over a period of time. As of June 30, 2016, the AIF had $2.7 billion in outstanding commitments to various limited partnerships. The AIF maintains a conservative liquidity profile that can accommodate these commitments in both normal environments and periods of market stress or dislocation.

AIF Asset Allocation as of June 30, 2016

AIF’s Portfolio Diversification Over Time

AIF Performance:

The AIF returned -1.4% in fiscal 2016, resulting in investment losses of $139.1 million.  After spending, gifts, and other transfers, the AIF decreased by $204.4 million, ending the fiscal year with a value of $9.5 billion.  The broad endowment ended the year at $10.7 billion, an increase of $581.8 million.  This increase was primarily driven by growth in Health System endowment funds following the recent integration of Lancaster General Health.

Fiscal 2016 was a challenging period for global equity and natural resources markets. Negative returns from these asset classes were only partly offset by strong positive returns from private equity, real estate and fixed income investments. Outperformance relative to Penn’s composite benchmark (a blend of asset class benchmarks) was driven by a number of asset classes, including notable relative performance in the developed foreign equity, emerging equity, and absolute return portfolios.

Over longer periods, Penn’s performance has consistently outpaced the composite benchmark. Importantly, Penn’s long term performance has enabled the AIF to exceed its goal of maintaining purchasing power after spending distributions.

Comparative Returns

Annual Financials

For detailed annual report information, please click the link below.

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