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Pioneering Portfolio Management: An Unconventional Approach to Institutional Investment [Hardcover]

by David F. Swensen
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15, 2000 0684864436 978-0684864433 1
During his fourteen years as Yale's chief investment officer, David F. Swensen has transformed the management of the university's portfolio. Largely by focusing on nonconventional strategies, including a heavy allocation to private equity, Swensen has achieved an annualized return of 16.2 percent, which has propelled Yale's endowment into the top tier of institutional funds. Now, this acknowledged leader of fund managers draws on his experience and deep knowledge of the financial markets to provide a compendium of powerful investment strategies.

Swensen presents an overview of the investment world populated by institutional fund managers, pension fund fiduciaries, investment managers, and trustees of universities, museums, hospitals, and foundations. He offers penetrating insights from his experience managing Yale's endowment, ranging from broad issues of goals and investment philosophy to the strategic and tactical aspects of portfolio management. Swensen's exceptionally readable book addresses critical concepts such as handling risk, selecting investment advisers, and negotiating the opportunities and pitfalls in individual asset classes. Fundamental investment ideas are illustrated by real-world concrete examples, and each chapter contains strategies that any manager can put into action.

At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with the relentless challenges provided by today's financial markets, Swensen's book is an indispensable roadmap for creating a successful investment program for every institutional fund manager. Any student of markets will benefit from Pioneering Portfolio Management.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Swensen has been the chief investment officer for the past 14 years at Yale University, where he is responsible for managing and investing more than $6 billion of the university's endowment assets and investment funds. Realizing an annual return of more than 16 percent on his investments, Swensen has added more than $2 billion to Yale's coffers, and his consistent track record has attracted the notice of Wall Street portfolio managers. Here Swensen provides a brief history of endowment funds and explains the purpose of endowment accumulation and the goals for institutional portfolios. One of the strategies behind his success has been to diversify asset classes and move beyond a reliance on domestic marketable securities. He distinguishes between traditional and alternative asset classes, looks at performance evaluation issues and tools, and considers the investment decision-making process. Although its audience will be limited, this book is a necessary purchase for libraries with collections that include the topic of investment management. David Rouse
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Richard C. Levin F.W. Beinecke Professor of Economics and President, Yale University David Swensen's creative and disciplined approach to investment has given Yale the resources it needs to augment its capacity for excellence in scholarship and teaching. Those who absorb the wisdom in this book will likewise strengthen the institutions they serve. -- Review

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (May 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684864436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684864433
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David F. Swensen is the chief investment officer of Yale University and the bestselling author of Pioneering Portfolio Management. He serves on the boards of TIAA, The Brookings Institution, Carnegie Institution, and Hopkins School. At Yale, where he produced an unparalleled two-decade investment record of 16.1 percent-per-annum returns, he teaches economics classes at Yale College and finance classes at Yale¹s School of Management. Mr. Swensen lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for endowment stewardship June 5, 2009
This survey of endowment investing offers an incisive framework for how to think about investable assets of charitable institutions. The value of the book is that Swensen has thought long and hard about how endowment investing differs from personal wealth management and how those differences ripple through almost all aspects of overseeing and implementing endowment investments. As the chair of an endowment investment committee and the author of the Endowment Stewardship blog, I find all of Swensen's insights valuable, but especially his chapters on endowment purposes, investment and spending goals, investment philosophy and investment process. [...]Also, if you're an individual investor trying to copy Yale, this book will explain why you're wasting your time.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
First of all, Swensen and Takahashi's team puzzled me by its consistent performance to beat the benchmark for over 15 years, with last year¡¯s stunning annual return of 41%, leading the assets under management to easily surpass $10 Billion. The book is not only a great resource to look into the minds of the people who made this happen but also a wonderful application of finance, investment, asset allocation, strategy and management that you are learning in business school. Without mentioning the merits of the finance theory and investment techniques, the book is presenting a compelling case study of how investment office fits into the picture of institution building.
Second, the fascinating aspects of the book is the ¡°unconventional approach¡±, not just simply statistics and financial modeling, for long-time horizon investing. For example, in asset allocation and manager selection, it can come from topdown analysis with support of quantitative modeling and sophisticated simulation; it also can come from scientific findings and number crunching to uncover the value creation process, which usually leads to the later asset allocation strategy to fully take advantage of the discoveries.
Third, the stress and analysis of alternative investment assets and absolute returns are also worthy of mentioning. Contrary to what traditional financial theories or books focusing on efficient markets, Swensen¡¯s book casts a lot of insights on the less-covered alternative asset classes and less efficient markets. Interestingly, they never seem to be constrained by their own defined class by constantly exploring those asset classes. For example, Swensen is famous for backing venture capital and private equity. It is true that they took the plunge well before others did.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Swensen's book is a must-read for endowment managers and other institutional investors, particularly those who take a fund-of-funds approach (as does Yale, where Swensen is Chief Investment Officer). Swensen aptly lays out the investment policy that has enabled Yale to consistently outperform other U.S. endowments. As Yale's CIO, Swensen has set a target portfolio allocation that departs significantly from the still heavily U.S. equity and debt-focused strategy of most endowments. Swensen's approach includes a large allocation to asset classes that are not highly correlated to the U.S. public equity market. He outlines these "alternative" classes in his book, giving the reader an excellent view of how alternative investments can increase risk-adjusted portfolio returns.
Perhaps the biggest contribution of Swensen's book, however, is the debunking of myths that still lull fiducaries into making the wrong decisions, for example when it comes to picking investment managers. Swensen advises against chasing managers who have performed well simply because of their past performance. If attributes such as personal integrity and the right fee structure are lacking, solid past performance can become a liability, not an asset. Swensen describes the example of private equity firm KKR-- after tremendous early successes, the flood of investor capital into KKR enabled the firm's partners to set up a fee structure that ensured big payoffs for themselves even if their funds underperformed. This is just one of many valuable lessons the reader will draw from Swensen's book.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars solid primer on institutional money management September 15, 2005
Swenson's reputation was made by the investment results he has generated, which in turn are based on good insights and steely discipline in managing a portfolio. That said, he could have used an editor on this book. His prose style is almost a mockery of a business presentation - here's what he's going to say, he says it, and then a recap of what he said. Still, his style, with its absolute emphasis on clearly communicating to the reader, is a huge improvement over quasi-academic articles in the Journal of Finance.

Equity bias and diversification - what's new there? Try the new lengths to which Swenson has taken portoflio diversification, and thus he has been able to afford an otherwise unsustainable level of investment in equities. Despite my comments on his style, the chapters on traditional and alternative asset classes can and should be read reptitively. (For fun, simultaeneously flip through _Triumph of the Optimists_, a historical survey of global markets.)

To my mind, the greatest problem fiduciaries seem to have is in staying consistent and disciplined in their approach to markets. While Swenson makes frequent tangential forays into describing the problem and how it manifests, this book on portfolio management would have benefited from a chapter on how to manage an investment team. Clearly stated objectives, consistent application, independence from portfolio managers, individual responsibilities vs. committee consensus, recruiting the right people...there is certainly enough there for a good chapter. The closing chapter on "Investment Process" is a valuable contribution, but it left me wanting to know more.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for understanding asset allocation
The classic book in portfolio management gives a great background knowledge on asset classes and how they - should - function within a portfolio. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Fabio P Noronha
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent book
Excelente book, for those interested in portfolio management, asset alocation, and investments it's a must read. Lots of good insights.
Published 7 months ago by Bruno Maueler
5.0 out of 5 stars A bible for asset allocators
Whether you are managing your own savings or entitled to manage a corporation's assets, this book is a must have !
Published 16 months ago by Stephane Toullieux
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read even for those not in endowment management
Pioneering Portfolio theory is a must read. As other reviewers have said it's essential for any endowment manager. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Kevin Kwok
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wise Approach
Mr. Swenson does an excellent job explaining the method and reasoning behind the endowment he manages and why it takes a different approach and thinking to managing an endowment as... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Sterling Raskie
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and structured review of institutional money management
David Swensen has written a commendable book. Perhaps most commendable is his focus on ethical money management with a focus on fiduciary responsibility to the investor--a... Read more
Published on July 19, 2008 by D. J Najarian
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as everyone else says.
I have recommended this book to numerous colleagues at work. We use it as a great summary of our investment philosophy and as a touchstone for investment values and sanity checks. Read more
Published on April 17, 2008 by iliketowatch
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate yet level-headed
The marketing/techno-speak of the investment management industry sometimes gets to be overwhelming, this book can be an antidote. Read more
Published on December 21, 2007 by Subir Grewal
4.0 out of 5 stars Good insights; Perhaps DS cannot see his own hubris though
This is an excellent book about the workings of an institutional portfolio and the various influences pulling at investment decisions. Read more
Published on December 5, 2007 by Kalenjin
2.0 out of 5 stars A lot of nothing
This book has very little to teach you and it's virtually unreadable. Make sure you read one or two pages before you buy in case you are like me and you can't stand his style.
Published on February 6, 2006 by Bunnyrabbit
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