Next Steps in the Evolution of the Smith College Endowment
Letters to the Community
December 17, 2020
Dear students, staff, faculty and alums:
Smith College has long benefited from the solid financial foundation of its endowment. Philanthropic giving from generations of alums and other friends of the college, combined with prudent spending and endowment management, have enabled Smith to invest in such key areas as student financial aid, faculty recruitment and retention, and a strong academic program.
Since 2004, the college has outsourced the management of its endowment to Investure, an investment management firm serving a consortium of select colleges, universities and foundations. Smith was one of Investure’s founding clients and has been served exceptionally well by the firm’s expertise and talent. Over the past 16 years, with Investure’s excellent management and the Smith community’s generous gifts, the endowment value has grown from roughly $900 million to more than $2 billion, due in large part to cumulative portfolio returns of more than 300 percent. During that time, the endowment contributed more than $1 billion in support of Smith's mission. Today, our endowment ranks among the largest in the nation.
Given the current size of our endowment, Smith has become an outlier among higher education institutions that outsource their endowment management. In this context, and following more than a year of deliberation, the Smith College Board of Trustees has decided to establish its own in-house investment office, a model used by most colleges and universities with investment assets comparable to ours. This decision, known as “insourcing,” will enable us to further customize our investment strategies to Smith’s specific needs and exercise greater direct control over our largest financial asset. Importantly, insourcing will not change our investment objectives. We will continue to grow the endowment in support of the college’s mission by investing for maximal annualized returns.
We will soon launch a search for the college’s first chief investment officer (CIO). The search will be chaired by Trustee Deborah Farrington ’72, chair of the Investment Committee of the board of trustees, and supported by David Barrett Partners. The new CIO will report to the president and will work closely with the Investment Committee and with David DeSwert, vice president for finance and administration. Once on board, the CIO will establish an office and staffing to support an outstanding investment management operation.
The college will continue to work closely with Investure over the next several years as we transition our investment positions and complete other necessary administrative arrangements. We are profoundly grateful to Investure for the transformational role they have played in our endowment management and for all that their work has enabled Smith College to accomplish.
Alison Overseth ’80
Chair, Smith College Board of Trustees