Harvard Endowment Slashes Staff

February 6, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Harvard University's money management arm said last week that it plans to cut about 25% of its staff in the coming months.

The endowment’s $36.5 billion ranked it as the largest of any university in the world a year ago – but it lost about $8 billion in the July to October period, according to the Boston Globe.   Harvard said in a statement it will cut jobs at its Harvard Management Co. division including investment professions and technology, legal, and human resources employees.   That across the board approach was described as an effort to “re-balance and re-engineer the organization,” according to the Harvard Crimson, citing university spokesman John D. Longbrake.   

The decision was described as part of a broader restructuring by the division’s chief executive Jane Mendillo, who arrived last summer after overseeing Wellesley College’s $1.6 billion endowment (see  Harvard Turns to Mendillo to Run $35B Endowment ).   Mendillo’s appointment concluded a search launched last fall, when Mohamed El-Erian stepped down as HMC president and CEO (See  El-Erian Returns to Help Run PIMCO ).

The Globe noted that seventy percent of Harvard’s money is run by outside managers such as Convexity Capital Management, the Boston firm started by onetime Harvard endowment chief Jack Meyer (see  Harvard’s Money Management Dream Team to Resign ).   It’s not yet clear how the staffing cuts at the endowment might affect or influence those relationships.

Harvard’s endowment was the largest of any at the start of the academic year, according to a survey by the Washington-based National Association of College and University Business (see  Higher Education Endowments Hit Hard in 2008 ).