Endowment Management: From the CFO Perspective

John Griffith, Hirtle Callaghan's Endowment Risk Specialist, attended the annual meeting of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) on June 11th in Hershey, PA.  At the meeting John chaired a panel of college CFOs discussing the alternative models of managing the endowments (outsourced, in house and consultant).  The panel focused on governance and the increasingly difficult task of managing an endowment within the Trustee schedule of 3 or 4 meetings per year.  Even in the best scenario with additional meetings and strong Trustees, investment opportunities are missed and meetings often get bogged down in the details, leaving little time for boards to think and act strategically.

The panel concluded that Trustee Risk may be one of the largest risks to endowment management.  From the panel's perspective, outsourcing was identified as the optimal solution as this structure strengthens the Trustee's ability to focus on the long-term strategic priorities of an institution.  

John Griffith, CPA

John is an Endowment Risk Manager at Hirtle Callaghan.  He has over 28 years of higher education experience.  Prior to joining Hirtle Callaghan he was the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Bryn Mawr College.  As the Treasurer he oversaw an $850 million endowment, managed cash, issued debt, and was responsible for budgeting and strategy planning.  At Bryn Mawr he assisted in modernizing and diversifying the endowment.  During the recession Bryn Mawr was one of only a few colleges whose debt rating was upgraded.  Prior to Bryn Mawr John spent 15 years in various financial roles at the University of New Hampshire.  John started his Career at Coopers & Lybrand.  He earned a Masters in Finance from Bentley University and B.A. in Business Administration from the University of New Hampshire.

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