A student walks up Libe Slope in fall.

Cornell’s investment office looks forward

Managing Cornell’s investment and stewarding its endowment are key to Cornell’s fiscal health and securing its future.

In the year and a half since Kenneth Miranda stepped up to lead Cornell’s investment office as chief investment officer, the team has reported strong endowment returns, implemented new investment strategies for 2017, and completed phase one of a move to New York City. Here are the highlights:

Endowment growth

The Office of University Investments reported in September that Cornell’s endowment returned 12.5 percent for the year ending June 30, bringing its value to $6.8 billion, its highest total to date. The increase placed Cornell’s performance sixth among its Ivy League peers. Cornell’s total endowment size consistently ranks among the top 20 in the nation.

Cornell is closely monitoring a proposed Congressional bill to tax income from some college and university endowments. Cornell President Martha E. Pollack told the New York Times that the move would cost Cornell an estimated $10.5 million a year, reducing funds available for financial aid, faculty salaries, and research.

New investment strategies

Cody Danks Burke, senior investment officer, said the office has implemented significant changes to portfolio strategy and management, especially in the categories of public equities, hedge equities, and real assets. Goals have included improving asset class construction, manager selection, and diversification; controlling fee costs; increasing its ability to generate excess returns; improving liquidity, and better aligning its strategy to respond well to current and expected investment environments.

Relocation to New York City

The office completed the first stage of a two-phased move to New York City, a decision announced in September 2016. According to CFO Joanne DeStefano, benefits include better access to potential staff who might not be willing to move to Ithaca and proximity to world capital markets.

Investment team members relocated to open its New York City office in Midtown Manhattan on September 2017. With current operations staff choosing to stay in Ithaca, recruitment for a new York City-based operations team is underway to complete phase two of the move.

I strongly believe that the work we have done and the work ahead of us will significantly benefit the endowment and Cornell in terms of asset growth and performance. Most importantly, it will strengthen our ability to support the faculty, students, research, and public engagement of our world-class university.
—Kenneth Miranda

Do you have questions about Cornell’s investment management or endowment? Contact Chip Bryce, director of Trusts, Estates, and Gift Planning, wlb5@cornell.edu, or 607-254-6147.

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