Harvard Names New Endowment Chief; Hopeful to Change the Investment Model and Improve Its Performance


N. P. Narvekar is chosen to manage Harvard's $35.7 billion endowment fund beginning this December.

Mr. Narvekar or simply "Narv" is responsible for creating a 10.1% annualized return for Columbia University for the last 10 years, ending the fiscal year of June 2015. It is considered as one of the best returns among Ivy League schools.

Before Narvekar took the reins in 2002, Columbia's endowment was at $4.3 billion. Now it is at $9.6 billion. Narvekar was also a managing director for the University of Pennsylvania's endowment and prior to that had a 14-year stint with J.P. Morgan.

Under his leadership, Columbia fared better that most schools in the 2009 financial crisis. It reported a loss of 16.1% which lower than most higher education institutions. Harvard lost 27.3% that year.

Narv, the incoming CEO is Harvard Management Co.'s (HMC) 4th chief executive in the last 10 years and he will come in at a time when the fund is reeling from its biggest loss since 2009. He is replacing former chief Stephen Blyth who left last July and only spent 18 months in office.

Insiders and people familiar with the situation are mainly concerned on how the new CEO would approach Harvard's unusual "hybrid" investment model. The endowment tends to designate funds management to external managers but at the same time employ people to manage its own assets like.

The HMC board also expects Narvekar to examine this current investment model and weigh how much participation in-house management should have - should it be increased, reduced or discontinued.

People familiar with the situation knows that Narv will not be confined to the same approach he used in Columbia and he won't be adapting the existing style of HMC either and he is up to the challenge as he shared in a Harvard press release, "I look forward to working with the HMC board and team and using my investment experience to serve Harvard in the most effective way possible."

This isn't the first time Narvekar was approached to manage Harvard's huge and challenged endowment. He inhibited himself as a candidate back in 2014 due to personal reasons. This year, he was chosen among 7 other people last early last month and it was an impressive roster that included Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) current endowment chief, Seth Alexander.

Harvard's management expressed satisfaction that Narvekar will be coming onboard, according to university Pres. Drew Faust, "We are pleased to welcome Narv to Harvard and are confident that his leadership skills and deep experience at the highest levels of investment management will position HMC for long-term success."

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