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Sunday, December 05, 2021

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UR endowment significantly increased in 2020-2021 fiscal year

The University of Richmond’s endowment increased by four times the usual rate during the fiscal year of 2020-2021, according to an email from UR President Kevin Hallock sent to faculty and staff on Oct. 21.

The Director of Spider Management Company, Tory Sprehe, is in charge of UR’s endowment investments and said the endowment increase had been mainly due to significant investment returns. 

“For the last decade, our endowment rate of return, defined as the percentage increase earned through investing from one year to the next, has increased at an average rate of about 10.2% per year,” Hallock wrote in the email, which was sent to The Collegian by Sprehe. 

“For the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2021, our endowment had a rate of return of 45%,” he wrote. 

Sprehe said this year had been a big year for returns. 

“There were huge returns coming out of public equity markets, but we also invest heavily in alternative and private equity, which particularly venture capital this year had an amazing year,” she said.

There were no changes in UR’s investment strategy last year, but the returns came primarily from UR’s existing long-term investments, Sprehe said. 

“The way venture capitalism works is that they are very long term investments,” she added. “So, a lot of investments that did particularly well this year we invested in five, seven,10 years ago.”

While many factors played a role in UR’s investment returns last year, the driving force was the market rebound in the past 12 to 18 months, following an initial drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sprehe said. Sprehe did not foresee similar market patterns or a change in UR’s investment strategy in the future.

“It is not expected that we will have these types of returns going forward,” Sprehe said. “I think it was an amazing year, and we are certainly not planning or budgeting or thinking these returns are going to continue,” he said.

UR Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, David Hale, said in an interview the endowment was made up of thousands of individual funds, half of which had restrictions.

“The other half is unrestricted. That goes into our budget, and that funds our two largest expenditures, which is financial aid and compensation for faculty and staff,” Hale said.

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UR’s operating budget will increase over time as a result of last year’s endowment growth, Hale said.

“We will smooth that increase over a period of five to seven years,” Hale said. “We want to protect the operating budget from the volatility of the investment market.”

The endowment’s main purpose is to fund UR’s current and long term operations, Hale said.

“Our obligation is to manage these assets in perpetuity,” he said. “We will preserve the value, and hopefully enhance the value of that gift. We have an obligation to provide support for university now, and in the future.”

Contact news writer Katie Castellani at katie.castellani@richmond.edu.

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