University endowments are trading the solitude of their leafy campuses for the hubbub of Wall Street.
Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts school set among the trees of Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts, is the latest school to announce plans to relocate its endowment to a financial center. It joins Cornell University, Michigan State University, Hamilton College and several other schools that have moved to the New York area and Boston in recent years.
Mount Holyoke plans to follow a familiar playbook: create a new chief investment officer job and place the executive close to prominent managers for better access to their funds. The college, with an endowment of $780 million, plans to hire a CIO in the coming months and shift the office to New York or Boston.
"We think that will attract the most talented candidate," said Louise Wasso, chair of the investment committee at the women's college.
Endowments are sidling up to the titans of finance in hopes of boosting the returns that support school budgets.
"There have definitely been things we've been able to invest in because I was out here at the right place at the right time,'' said Michigan State's first CIO, Philip Zecher, who opened his office in 2016 in Connecticut, a hedge fund haven. "If I had to travel here, I probably wouldn't have been at some of the events.''
While it's too soon to know if Michigan State's relocation will boost its long-term performance, early indicators look promising.