A new class at Stanford University will address the $120 trillion in assets that most people on earth have never even heard of, said Ashby Monk, leader of Stanford University's Research Initiative on Long-Term Investing, on March 31 in a LinkedIn Live event moderated by Jennifer Ablan, editor-in-chief and chief content officer of Pensions & Investments.
The class — Institutional Investors and Sustainable Capitalism Seminar — is the first of its kind, according to Mr. Monk, and exists as an experiment that has been massively oversubscribed, with more than 50 students, well over the original 20-participant goal, Mr. Monk said.
"First off, I think that most people on the planet don't know what a pension fund is," said Mr. Monk. "I'm pretty sure that's right, because I continually ask classes: 'Who in this class is willing to give a definition of what a pension fund is?' Very rarely do I get somebody confident enough to raise their hand."
Considering global institutional asset owners such as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, foundations and endowments account for $120 trillion in assets, Mr. Monk said it is important to address that considerable knowledge gap.
"It is critical we should have entire schools designed to studying them, but most people barely know they exist," Mr. Monk said.
He added that someone can get a Ph.D. from Stanford or Oxford University and not know what a pension fund is.
"We need a much bigger focus from the next generation on these organizations," Mr. Monk said. "We need to help them achieve their objectives."
There are three goals for the class, Mr. Monk said. First, explain why sponsors want to set up entities that are "seeking to deliver high commercial financial returns," explain how they invest and why they invest, and what the implications are for the world.
"I want to get a generation of Stanford grads to want to work for pension funds," Mr. Monk said.
A recording of the LinkedIn Live event is available here.