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:
  • The total return over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 49.5%, which is lower, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (91.2%) in the same period.
  • During the last 3 years, the total return is 22.8%, which is lower, thus worse than the value of 41.5% from the benchmark.

CAGR:

'The compound annual growth rate isn't a true return rate, but rather a representational figure. It is essentially a number that describes the rate at which an investment would have grown if it had grown the same rate every year and the profits were reinvested at the end of each year. In reality, this sort of performance is unlikely. However, CAGR can be used to smooth returns so that they may be more easily understood when compared to alternative investments.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • The annual return (CAGR) over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 8.4%, which is lower, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (13.8%) in the same period.
  • Compared with SPY (12.3%) in the period of the last 3 years, the annual performance (CAGR) of 7.1% is lower, thus worse.

Volatility:

'Volatility is a statistical measure of the dispersion of returns for a given security or market index. Volatility can either be measured by using the standard deviation or variance between returns from that same security or market index. Commonly, the higher the volatility, the riskier the security. In the securities markets, volatility is often associated with big swings in either direction. For example, when the stock market rises and falls more than one percent over a sustained period of time, it is called a 'volatile' market.'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • Looking at the historical 30 days volatility of 11.5% in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to the benchmark SPY (18.8%)
  • During the last 3 years, the volatility is 13.4%, which is lower, thus better than the value of 22.4% from the benchmark.

DownVol:

'Risk measures typically quantify the downside risk, whereas the standard deviation (an example of a deviation risk measure) measures both the upside and downside risk. Specifically, downside risk in our definition is the semi-deviation, that is the standard deviation of all negative returns.'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • The downside deviation over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 8.7%, which is smaller, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (13.7%) in the same period.
  • During the last 3 years, the downside deviation is 10.3%, which is smaller, thus better than the value of 16.5% from the benchmark.

Sharpe:

'The Sharpe ratio is the measure of risk-adjusted return of a financial portfolio. Sharpe ratio is a measure of excess portfolio return over the risk-free rate relative to its standard deviation. Normally, the 90-day Treasury bill rate is taken as the proxy for risk-free rate. A portfolio with a higher Sharpe ratio is considered superior relative to its peers. The measure was named after William F Sharpe, a Nobel laureate and professor of finance, emeritus at Stanford University.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Looking at the Sharpe Ratio of 0.51 in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (0.6)
  • Looking at Sharpe Ratio in of 0.34 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to SPY (0.44).

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:
  • The ratio of annual return and downside deviation over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 0.68, which is lower, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (0.83) in the same period.
  • Looking at ratio of annual return and downside deviation in of 0.45 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to SPY (0.59).

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.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • The Downside risk index over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 4.12 , which is smaller, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (5.79 ) in the same period.
  • During the last 3 years, the Ulcer Index is 4.9 , which is smaller, thus better than the value of 7.09 from the benchmark.

MaxDD:

'A maximum drawdown is the maximum loss from a peak to a trough of a portfolio, before a new peak is attained. Maximum Drawdown is an indicator of downside risk over a specified time period. It can be used both as a stand-alone measure or as an input into other metrics such as 'Return over Maximum Drawdown' and the Calmar Ratio. Maximum Drawdown is expressed in percentage terms.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (-33.7 days) in the period of the last 5 years, the maximum reduction from previous high of -23.7 days of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is larger, thus better.
  • Compared with SPY (-33.7 days) in the period of the last 3 years, the maximum drop from peak to valley of -23.7 days is higher, thus better.

MaxDuration:

'The Drawdown Duration is the length of any peak to peak period, or the time between new equity highs. The Max Drawdown Duration is the worst (the maximum/longest) amount of time an investment has seen between peaks (equity highs) in days.'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • The maximum days under water 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.'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • The average days below previous high over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 39 days, which is greater, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (37 days) in the same period.
  • During the last 3 years, the average days below previous high is 46 days, which is higher, thus worse than the value of 45 days from the benchmark.

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.