This article from the New York Times entitled “Endowment Sweepstakes: How Tiny Houghton College Beat Harvard” describes how Houghton College, a liberal arts institution in the Genesee Valley in western New York, outperformed many of the larger, more notable endowments across the country, such as Harvard and Yale. Their $46.4 million endowment emerged in the top quartile of all endowments earning 11.85 percent return for the 2016 fiscal year according to the National Association of College and University Business officers, known as Nacubo. They generated these returns by moving out of hedge funds and alternatives and into amore traditional 70/30 allocation mix of low cost Vanguard index funds and mutual funds. Houston Trust Company believes that a combination of both actively managed individual equity securities and passively managed (index) exposure is a prudent approach towards investing that works over time.
Endowment Sweepstakes: How Tiny Houghton College Beat Harvard
Charles (“Charlie”) Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffet’s long-time “partner” in business, delivered this speech in 1998 critiquing the investment practices of leading charitable foundations and endowments. He notes the eroding effects on investors’ returns due to the layers of fees which “can easily reach 3% of foundation net worth per annum”. These fees are not limited to investment advisory fees, but also include the effects of high turnover and transaction fees which tend to accompany complex asset allocations, commonly observed in the portfolios of many not-for-profit institutions.
Charlie’s advice to improve the investment practices of institutional investors is to reduce the cost of their investment management programs though indexing and investing in a limited number of high quality securities managed by experienced managers, and holding these securities for long periods of time. This approach resonates well with our investment philosophy at Houston Trust Company, and it is what we implement in the investment practices of our institutional, and individual clients, alike.
We have added a couple of charts which elaborate on Charlie’s point, which we have annotated in the original article.
John Maynard Keynes is perhaps most famous as a (somewhat controversial) economist. However, he was also a skilled and successful investor and portfolio manager.
This article from the most recent edition of the Financial Analysts Journal entitled “The British Origins of the US Endowment Model” describes Keynes’ management of the endowment of King’s College, Cambridge from 1921 until his death in 1946. We noted similar investment philosophies among Keynes’ management of the King College endowment and our approach at Houston Trust Company: the importance of a long-term focus, the benefits of an equity bias, and the futility of market timing. The conclusion of the desirability of broad diversification with low investment costs is also very much “in sync” with our approach at Houston Trust Company.
At Houston Trust Company we view the role of bonds as acting a ballast to the portfolio, especially during times of extreme volatility in the equity markets. Their stable and predictable income streams make them an attractive asset to include within the context of an overall diversified portfolio. We manage laddered, high grade fixed income portfolios specifically tailored for our clients who seek the qualities of a stable income stream. This article from The Wall Street Journal speaks to our overall investment viewpoint on bonds as an asset class.
Luther King Capital Management is a Fort Worth based investment management firm which was founded in 1979. The firm utilizes a comprehensive investment approach which incorporates a high degree of proprietary research. The firm is 100% employee-owned and utilizes a long-term-oriented investors approach to equity investing.