“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.”
And don’t forget the endowment boards, often packed with passionate and well-heeled alumni who did not make their fortunes by simply rubber-stamping investment decisions.
Nationally, more than 40 percent of the top investment executives within universities and endowments left in 2005 and 2006, according to a 2007 compensation survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting (now Mercer) that excluded Harvard and Yale. The number is high even for Wall Street, which tends to chew people up at impressive rates.
--Jenny Anderson, NYT, on another reason why Yale endowment manager David Swensen is amazing