Description

David Swensen is manager of Yale University's endowment fund. He has addressed how investors should set up and manage their investments in his book, Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment.

The Swensen portfolio consists of six core asset class allocations:

US equity: 30%

Foreign developed equity: 15%

Emerging market equity: 5%

US REITS: 20%

US Treasury bonds: 15%

US TIPS: 15%

Statistics (YTD)

What do these metrics mean? [Read More] [Hide]

TotalReturn:

'The total return on a portfolio of investments takes into account not only the capital appreciation on the portfolio, but also the income received on the portfolio. The income typically consists of interest, dividends, and securities lending fees. This contrasts with the price return, which takes into account only the capital gain on an investment.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Looking at the total return of 64.6% in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively smaller, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (120.7%)
  • During the last 3 years, the total return, or performance is 28.3%, which is smaller, thus worse than the value of 44% from the benchmark.

CAGR:

'The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is a useful measure of growth over multiple time periods. It can be thought of as the growth rate that gets you from the initial investment value to the ending investment value if you assume that the investment has been compounding over the time period.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (17.2%) in the period of the last 5 years, the annual return (CAGR) of 10.5% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus worse.
  • Compared with SPY (12.9%) in the period of the last 3 years, the annual performance (CAGR) of 8.7% is lower, thus worse.

Volatility:

'In finance, volatility (symbol σ) is the degree of variation of a trading price series over time as measured by the standard deviation of logarithmic returns. Historic volatility measures a time series of past market prices. Implied volatility looks forward in time, being derived from the market price of a market-traded derivative (in particular, an option). Commonly, the higher the volatility, the riskier the security.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (18.8%) in the period of the last 5 years, the 30 days standard deviation of 11.5% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus better.
  • Looking at volatility in of 13.7% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to SPY (22.8%).

DownVol:

'The downside volatility is similar to the volatility, or standard deviation, but only takes losing/negative periods into account.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (13.6%) in the period of the last 5 years, the downside volatility of 8.7% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus better.
  • During the last 3 years, the downside deviation is 10.5%, which is lower, thus better than the value of 16.7% from the benchmark.

Sharpe:

'The Sharpe ratio (also known as the Sharpe index, the Sharpe measure, and the reward-to-variability ratio) is a way to examine the performance of an investment by adjusting for its risk. The ratio measures the excess return (or risk premium) per unit of deviation in an investment asset or a trading strategy, typically referred to as risk, named after William F. Sharpe.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:
  • The risk / return profile (Sharpe) over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 0.69, which is lower, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (0.78) in the same period.
  • During the last 3 years, the ratio of return and volatility (Sharpe) is 0.45, which is smaller, thus worse than the value of 0.46 from the benchmark.

Sortino:

'The Sortino ratio, a variation of the Sharpe ratio only factors in the downside, or negative volatility, rather than the total volatility used in calculating the Sharpe ratio. The theory behind the Sortino variation is that upside volatility is a plus for the investment, and it, therefore, should not be included in the risk calculation. Therefore, the Sortino ratio takes upside volatility out of the equation and uses only the downside standard deviation in its calculation instead of the total standard deviation that is used in calculating the Sharpe ratio.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (1.08) in the period of the last 5 years, the excess return divided by the downside deviation of 0.92 of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus worse.
  • During the last 3 years, the downside risk / excess return profile is 0.59, which is lower, thus worse than the value of 0.62 from the benchmark.

Ulcer:

'Ulcer Index is a method for measuring investment risk that addresses the real concerns of investors, unlike the widely used standard deviation of return. UI is a measure of the depth and duration of drawdowns in prices from earlier highs. Using Ulcer Index instead of standard deviation can lead to very different conclusions about investment risk and risk-adjusted return, especially when evaluating strategies that seek to avoid major declines in portfolio value (market timing, dynamic asset allocation, hedge funds, etc.). The Ulcer Index was originally developed in 1987. Since then, it has been widely recognized and adopted by the investment community. According to Nelson Freeburg, editor of Formula Research, Ulcer Index is “perhaps the most fully realized statistical portrait of risk there is.'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (5.59 ) in the period of the last 5 years, the Downside risk index of 4 of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus better.
  • During the last 3 years, the Ulcer Ratio is 4.93 , which is lower, thus better than the value of 7.15 from the benchmark.

MaxDD:

'Maximum drawdown is defined as the peak-to-trough decline of an investment during a specific period. It is usually quoted as a percentage of the peak value. The maximum drawdown can be calculated based on absolute returns, in order to identify strategies that suffer less during market downturns, such as low-volatility strategies. However, the maximum drawdown can also be calculated based on returns relative to a benchmark index, for identifying strategies that show steady outperformance over time.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • The maximum drop from peak to valley over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is -23.7 days, which is greater, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (-33.7 days) in the same period.
  • Looking at maximum DrawDown in of -23.7 days in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively larger, thus better in comparison to SPY (-33.7 days).

MaxDuration:

'The Maximum Drawdown Duration is an extension of the Maximum Drawdown. However, this metric does not explain the drawdown in dollars or percentages, rather in days, weeks, or months. It is the length of time the account was in the Max Drawdown. A Max Drawdown measures a retrenchment from when an equity curve reaches a new high. It’s the maximum an account lost during that retrenchment. This method is applied because a valley can’t be measured until a new high occurs. Once the new high is reached, the percentage change from the old high to the bottom of the largest trough is recorded.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • The maximum time in days below previous high water mark over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 146 days, which is greater, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (139 days) in the same period.
  • Looking at maximum days under water in of 146 days in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively higher, thus worse in comparison to SPY (139 days).

AveDuration:

'The Drawdown Duration is the length of any peak to peak period, or the time between new equity highs. The Avg Drawdown Duration is the average amount of time an investment has seen between peaks (equity highs), or in other terms the average of time under water of all drawdowns. So in contrast to the Maximum duration it does not measure only one drawdown event but calculates the average of all.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Looking at the average days below previous high of 37 days in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively larger, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (33 days)
  • Compared with SPY (45 days) in the period of the last 3 years, the average time in days below previous high water mark of 47 days is higher, thus worse.

Performance (YTD)

Historical returns have been extended using synthetic data.

Allocations
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Allocations

Returns (%)

  • Note that yearly returns do not equal the sum of monthly returns due to compounding.
  • Performance results of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio are hypothetical, do not account for slippage, fees or taxes, and are based on backtesting, which has many inherent limitations, some of which are described in our Terms of Use.