Managers at Commonfund Asset Management in Wilton, Conn., are predicting "profound" changes for their 1,300 higher education endowment and non-profit clients, most of whom rely on people being able to gather.
Commonfund, which manages a collective $25 billion in assets, provides investment management and OCIO services across the non-profit spectrum, from small schools to large museums.
President and CEO Timothy T. Yates Jr. said he and a staff of 150 "are working dawn to dusk" to meet clients' challenges, which are "very different than the '08 crisis." That is especially true for colleges and universities who "have had to send all the paying customers home. They are asking, 'How do we get through this?' " he said.
Commonfund's twofold approach involves sharing best practices with clients and calling them daily.
Commonfund has been convening experts online to share best practices on topics ranging from debt markets to fundraising during a recession to governance considerations for boards. A recent expert panel covered threats to higher education near term and in the intermediate future. The firm has also arranged client calls with legal experts laying out what the CARES Act could mean for their organizations.
Then there are daily calls with the organizations' investment committees as they try to cope with the crisis. "We are focused on five or six key things, and we are asking really strategic questions" about mission, investment objectives, risk/return and liquidity profiles," Mr. Yates said.
It is a particularly tough conversation with higher education clients, who were already coming off eight years of enrollment declines before the crisis. With room-and-board refunds alone adding up to a 5% drop in revenue, schools need even more funds now to get them through it.