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Stanford leads in asset manager diversity, Knight Foundation report shows

Stanford University ranks high in investment manager diversity among its peers, according to a new report on the gender, racial and ethnic diversity of asset managers used by large U.S. university endowments.

Of the endowments that participated in a recent Knight Foundation study, Stanford has the highest level of diversity among its managers, at 38% of U.S.-based assets under management. Of that, 11% are managed by women-led partners, and 28% are managed by minority-led partners. Comparatively, Duke University has 32%; Princeton has 26.8%; and Harvard has 19%.

“We are fortunate to have partnered with a number of very talented, diverse investment managers who in turn have made significant contributions to the endowment’s performance,” said Charles C. Moore, senior advisor for private equity and managing director of stakeholder engagement at Stanford Management Company (SMC). “We are heartened by the results of the Foundation’s research but of course do not believe our work on diversity is done.”

SMC invests the university’s endowment and other financial assets to provide long-term support to the university. Earlier this year, the Stanford Board of Trustees approved an allocation of university reserve funds for a new program to invest in diverse investment managers, the Diverse Manager Initiative, which was not included in the Knight study. Further, SMC has committed endowment funds with another diverse manager since its information was submitted to the Knight Foundation last winter.

SMC’s own Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan can be found on its website. “SMC is committed to increasing diversity among its staff, expanding upon the existing diversity of the endowment portfolio, and contributing to diversity in the asset management industry,” Stanford said in a provided statement included in the Knight report.

As part of an ongoing research series studying diversity in asset management, the Knight Foundation and Global Economics Group embarked on a study last fall to assess the degrees to which the nation’s wealthiest 25 private and 25 public colleges and universities hire investment firms owned by women and racial or ethnic minorities to manage their endowment assets.

Sixteen of the 50 colleges and universities decided to participate in the initial Knight Diversity of Asset Managers study of higher education. These 16 schools collectively hold 54% of the group’s endowment assets, or $314 billion. Stanford was one of four self-reporting schools that participated in the study, which allowed it to aid the Foundation’s research while preserving the confidentiality of SMC’s manager roster and endowment portfolio detail. Peers including Harvard, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania also self-reported data.

“We encourage colleges, universities, foundations, and corporations to follow the lead of the 16 academic participants and be more transparent about the management of their assets,” the Foundation’s report’s foreword reads. “These institutions will play a central role in shaping the 21st-century global economy and represent huge opportunities for college and university graduates.”

The Knight Foundation began publishing research on diversity in the asset management industry in 2017. An earlier Knight Foundation study found that only 1.4% of overall U.S. assets were managed by diverse-owned firms.

We are gratified to see every endowment that reported data has investment manager diversity well above this mark, which suggests to us that not only is Stanford leading among U.S. endowments on this important issue, but endowments generally may be in the vanguard relative to the institutional investor community as a whole,” Moore said. “As participants in the university’s IDEAL initiative, we are working hard to further advance a variety of diversity efforts at SMC and, through the Diverse Manager Initiative, to support a new generation of women- and minority-led investment firms, which we hope will contribute to diversifying the asset management industry as a whole.”

The Center for Business and Human Rights at New York University’s Stern School of Business was a partner in the study.

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