- May 2009: Vol. 21 No. 5

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Shop Talk: A Conversation with Bill Jarvis

by Rachel Speirs

Endowments, like most institutions these days, are struggling with portfolio losses amid the market turmoil. Rachel Speirs, editor of The Institutional Real Estate Letter– North America, spoke with Bill Jarvis, managing director and head of research at The Commonfund Institute, about the Institute’s most recent benchmark survey and its two follow-up surveys to find out how endowments are coping during the downturn.

The 2009 Commonfund Benchmarks Study analyzed data from the end of fiscal year 2008. The report finds endowments were just starting to average negative returns in June. At that point, how were endowments reacting to the news about declines in their portfolios? Did it register as a big problem yet?

At the end of June, average returns for the 629 endowments that participated in the Study were –2.8 percent, but that average figure masks a range of returns. Viewed by endowment size, for example, larger endowments, with assets over $1 bill

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