Pause for thought

Some reflections as we get closer to the point of appointing an asset manager for our endowment.

I last wrote before Christmas to update on our progress on the management of our endowment, namely, how best we invest the £60m endowment from the Cabinet Office using a “total impact” approach. We received detailed proposals from the shortlisted asset managers in early January and went about reviewing them as an endowment working group.

What was clear almost immediately was that the decision to select an asset manager was going to take more time than initially expected! After nearly two hours of rigorous debate and discussion, we agreed that all three of the short listed asset managers would follow up their proposals with full presentations of their revised proposals, following feedback given, to the endowment working group, to be held at the end of February.

We have also taken the opportunity to share this process with a few other foundations who are on this journey with us and hope that being in the room to see the presentations will be helpful.

I have been in a reflective mood following these conversations and after attending the Charity Finance Group (CFG) Investment Conference last week. At times, I feel frustrated that this process hasn’t been easier in terms of there being an obvious solution, but at the same time, it convinces me of the importance of trying to test the hypothesis that this approach is feasible and that an investment portfolio can achieve both financial and social impact. And hopefully not at the expense of one or the other!  

The conference was great in helping to facilitate conversations about social investment and the consideration of impact within more traditional investment portfolios, but also recognised the journey that many organisations will need to go on to turn this theory into reality, especially given the nervousness that comes with how best to invest the assets of a charity, and the scrutiny surrounding these decisions.

I am hopeful that as we near the first big milestone, our learnings and experience can help others with this journey. We have begun exploring how best to share this learning, but more immediately, I look forward to updating you next month on the outcome of the presentations and hopefully be able to share our asset manager appointment decision and reasons for our decision.