ND investment expert explores global markets
Brian Hartnett | Friday, April 4, 2014
LONDON — Addressing a crowd of students, alumni and benefactors at Trafalgar Hall on Thursday as part of the Seventh Annual Notre Dame Alumni-Student London Lecture Series, University vice president and Chief Investment Officer (CIO) Scott Malpass elucidated the obstacles and benefits of investing in a global market.
Malpass, who oversees the University’s endowment, working capital, pension and life income assets, gave a talk entitled, “The Notre Dame Endowment — The Challenges of Being a Global Investor in an Uncertain World.” He said the title of the talk was appropriate given Notre Dame’s significant international investments.
“We’re actually experimenting with the idea of having offices overseas,” Malpass said. “It’s obviously a global world; we’re a major global investor. 40 percent of our endowment is invested overseas, about half of that in emerging markets.”
Malpass said global investing entails picking industries and locations that can leverage a company’s strengths and add value. For Notre Dame, one of those main spots has been the energy industry, he said.
“Energy is an area which we’re spending a lot of time on … obviously, in any industry going through change, there’s usually opportunity, particularly I’d say in oil services and more the private side,” Malpass said. “I’ve spent a lot of my time in London looking at a lot of energy-related opportunities for European investments in Scotland and the U.K.”
Another investment target for Notre Dame, Malpass said, is emerging markets, particularly China, India, Brazil and, more recently, Africa.
“We do a lot of emerging markets, a lot more than most investors,” he said. “It’s an area where there’s a lot of inefficiency, long-term high growth rates … there’s a lot of risk in some of those markets, but we’re really only doing them because we can find really good partners.”
It is these partners, Malpass noted, that play an important role in managing the Notre Dame endowment, which totaled approximately $8.5 billion at the end of the last fiscal year.
“We’re not managing this in-house; I’m not trading stocks or investing in companies directly,” Malpass said. “We’re hiring partners across all these major asset classes, and we’re giving them a piece of the endowment to manage, and we’re paying them to do that. We have over 100 investment partners around the world, and it’s a heck of a group.”
Malpass, who was named Notre Dame’s CIO at the age of 26 in 1989, said a main goal during his tenure has been to build a strong investment organization to oversee the endowment, which consists of 5,500 endowment funds all pooled into one. This organization then carries forth a philosophy of “try to do something different,” he said.
“Obviously, we’re long-term investors,” he said. “… We don’t have that luxury in a finite period of investing for individuals, but endowments are perpetual.
“There’s things we can take on and risks we can take on that an individual wouldn’t take on. Part of the challenge that we’ve took on was, ‘How can we take on a portfolio that could earn very high real returns at a risk level much lower than the focus in the stock market?’
“So over the years that’s what we’ve been trying to do — we’ve been trying to build a superior portfolio that can earn low double-digit returns on average over time.”
In his tenure as CIO, Malpass has seen the Notre Dame endowment grow from the 25th to the 12th largest in the nation and the largest among American Catholic universities. The Notre Dame endowment, which covered only five percent of the University’s operating budget 25 years ago, now covers 30 percent of the University’s budget.
Malpass said he is particularly proud to have seen the University’s total financial aid increase from $5 million in 1989 to its current total of $120 million.
“It was immoral as a Catholic university to have kids accepted and not meet full need,” he said. “We’ve come a long way. We wouldn’t have the quality of faculty and students, the success of our alumni, if we weren’t able to attract the very best, partly because of the improvements we made in financial aid.”
Malpass noted that his efforts in growing the Notre Dame endowment would not have been possible without the influence of University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh.
“[Endowment] was something [Hesburgh] always emphasized, and he imparted that importance of the stewardship and fiduciary duty we have to take care of our financial resources in a first-class manner,” Malpass said. “He imparted that responsibility and importance of that, and it was obviously very motivating to me.”