It is tough, but not impossible, for outsiders to know what is going in the Williams endowment. Start with the basic asset allocation as described on page 3 of this pdf. (Comments welcome on whether or not this is a sensible plan.) Find benchmarks (publicly traded ETFs) for each of the asset classes. We don’t know if the managers picked to run Williams 27% allocation to domestic equities will do better or worse than, say, the Russell 3000 but, as a first pass, we can just assume that all managers meet their benchmarks.

Here is a pdf and xls version. My back-of-the-envelope guess? The Williams endowment was down -2.4% in fiscal year 2008 (ending June 30). Comments:

1) Yes, yes. I know that there is a Williams Record article on this topic (which I have not looked at yet). Thanks to Jeff Z for the pointer. I wanted to get this out-of-sample analysis (done ten days ago) out there before I look at the actual results. Update to come.

2) Yes, yes. I know that some of the assumptions here are fairly random. I have no idea what a fair benchmark for the Venture Capital and Absolute Returns portions of the portfolio should be. I suspect that those numbers are too high. (They were chosen by my Factset friend who put together the spreadsheet.) I hope that the Williams Private Equity did better than down 30% but there are no good public benchmarks for that.

3) Someone from Purple Bull should work with me on a public spreadsheet that provided live updates for interested members of the Williams community.

4) I hope that Williams CIO Collette Chilton will provide us with some transparency into the portfolio. How did the different components perform? We don’t need to know every detail, but we should know as much about the Williams endowment as, say, Harvard alumni know about their endowment.

Print  •  Email