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Ranked: The World’s Top 50 Endowment Funds



Infographic showing the World's Top 50 Largest Endowment Funds

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Ranked: The World’s Top 50 Endowment Funds

What do Harvard, the Church Commissioners for England, the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an entity on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah all have in common? They all have endowment funds.

An endowment fund is the investment arm of nonprofit institutions like universities, charities, and churches. The purpose of the fund is to invest the organization’s assets to fuel future operations and other important projects.

The world’s largest endowment funds have billions in investable assets, making them sizable players in the finance sector. Here, using data from Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, we take a closer look at the world’s largest endowment funds by total assets.

Types of Endowment Funds

Overall, there are four main types of endowment structures.

  • Unrestricted Endowment: A fund structure where assets are used at the full discretion of the institution
  • Term Endowment: A fund structure with a fixed term time period before the principal can be spent
  • Quasi Endowment: A donation to an endowment with a specific purpose to deploy that capital
  • Restricted Endowment: A fund structure where the principal value from donations is held forever and only returns generated on the principal can be used

In addition, each endowment fund has different structures in regards to withdrawals, use of funds, and their general investment philosophy.

The Largest Endowment Funds

The largest endowment funds can be compared on a grand economic scale, in terms of assets.

To put it all into perspective, the largest 50 endowment funds represent over a trillion dollars in assets. Or for a more singular example, look at Harvard’s fund, which has an endowment greater than the entire GDP of countries like Serbia, Bolivia, or Slovenia.

Here’s how the top 50 rank.

RankEndowment FundTotal AssetsRegion
1Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc$124,000,000,000North America
2Japan Science and Technology Agency$80,700,000,000Asia
3Stanford University$75,143,751,000North America
4Harvard Management Company$72,781,329,000North America
5Yale University$56,223,259,000North America
6Princeton University$44,460,038,000North America
7MIT Investment Management Company$42,526,492,000North America
8Duke University$30,385,835,000North America
9New York University$27,840,535,000North America
10Columbia University in the City of New York$24,698,782,000North America
11University of Notre Dame$24,599,541,000North America
12KAUST Investment Management Company$23,500,000,000Middle East
13Emory University$20,458,905,000North America
14Johns Hopkins University$18,037,751,000North America
15Church Pension Fund$17,773,649,171North America
16University of Chicago$17,276,136,000North America
17Ohio State University$16,006,851,000North America
18Northwestern University$15,855,683,000North America
19Washington University in St Louis$15,103,569,000North America
20Penn State University, Office of Investment Management$15,017,272,000North America
21Notre Dame of Maryland University$14,938,580,253North America
22Cornell University$14,850,618,000North America
23University of Southern California$14,495,427,000North America
24Vanderbilt University$13,883,495,000North America
25University of Virginia Investment Management Compnay$13,811,076,000North America
26University of Tokyo$13,285,270,000Asia
27National University of Singapore$12,626,100,000Asia
28UNC Management Company$11,986,857,000North America
29University of Michigan Office of Investments$11,900,000,000North America
30General Authority of Awqaf$11,238,371,192Middle East
31Church Commissioners for England$11,197,700,000Europe
32J.Paul Getty Trust$10,778,927,000North America
33Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church$9,932,419,000North America
34Unitersity of Utah$9,827,602,000North America
35Brown University$9,793,108,000North America
36Kamehameha Schools$9,326,013,000North America
37Dartmouth College$9,078,340,000North America
38Hong Kong Jockey Club$8,603,580,000Asia
39Rice University$8,424,555,000North America
40The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust$8,313,588,000North America
41University of Pittsburgh$8,011,856,000North America
42Nature Conservancy$7,870,380,000North America
43University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation$7,329,730,000North America
44University of Rochester$7,149,025,000North America
45Virginia Commonwealth University$6,985,495,306North America
46Purdue University$6,755,500,000North America
47University of Miami$6,582,600,000North America
48University of Minnesota$6,304,508,000North America
49Caltech Investment Office$6,252,584,000North America
50Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City$5,588,554,000North America

The largest endowment fund, Ensign Peak Advisors, is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and manages the assets for the Mormon Church (officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). The church itself has over 16 million members worldwide and is the fourth largest church in America.

The Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) is a national research and development agency that plays a core role in promoting technology, innovation, and science within society. In 1995, Japan’s government passed the Science and Technology Basic Plan and the JST came to life and now has over $80 billion in assets as well as offices in Paris, Washington, Singapore, and Beijing.

Just two funds come from the Middle East. The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) with $23.5 billion and the General Authority of Awqaf. KAUST is ranked 95th amongst universities in the world and made history in the country by being Saudi Arabia’s first mixed-gender university.

The General Authority of Awqaf has $11 billion in assets and was established as a public authority to manage endowments and enhance Saudi Arabia’s various goals for societal development. “Awqaf” in Arabic loosely translates to assets that are donated or purchased for general or specific charitable causes that are socially beneficial.

On the environmental side is the Nature Conservancy, which has $7.8 billion in assets. The charity is estimated to have protected more than 100 million acres of land.

American Universities Dominate

Universities are one leading category from the world of endowment funds, particularly those from the United States. In fact, universities make up 39 of the top 50 endowment funds, with 35 of them based in America.

Historically, Harvard has been the largest, but Stanford has edged ahead in recent years. Stanford has $75 billion in assets compared to Harvard’s $73 billion. These vast amounts of money have not gone unnoticed, and elite universities are facing mounting criticism in some circles.

“When Harvard’s total admitted freshman class is 1,400 people—and they have an endowment that is the GDP of El Salvador—they’re not a nonprofit, they’re a hedge fund educating the children of their investors.” – Professor Scott Galloway

With student debt rising to $1.6 trillion, it’s likely these universities may face greater criticism around how they use the wealth available to them in endowment funds.

Sizable Influence

The top endowment funds carry considerable influence within the world of finance. While they all have billions to invest, each has very different objectives and intentions on how to deploy their capital.

And despite being non-profit organizations, endowment funds are seeing their overall assets exceed those held by many other investment funds, such as sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds, and private equity firms.

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What Baseball Can Teach Us About Investing in Innovation

What can innovation investing learn from baseball? See how hitting home runs and singles are akin to different forms of innovation investing.



The following content is sponsored by Guinness Atkinson Funds

What Baseball Teaches Us About Innovation Investing

Innovation investing is a popular investment theme due to its return potential.

However, not all innovation investing is the same, and too many approaches today focus on home-run-style disruptive innovation, Llaving the other forms relatively unnoticed and underrated.

In this sponsored post by Guinness Atkinson Funds, we explore innovation investing through the lens of baseball by comparing types of hits at base to forms of innovation. 

Types of Innovation

There are three common types of innovation that various business strategies fall under.

Persistent InnovationDisruptive InnovationEfficiency Innovation
Exploring new opportunities to build on top of services/products within a market a business already competes in.Meant to reinvent the wheel through technology or a business model.Seeks to optimize operational parts of a business through small incremental changes.
Nike making clothes out of recyclable material to improve carbon footprint and brand value.

Starbucks introducing mobile orders while driving sales growth through higher add on.

Amazon adding new perks to the overall Amazon Prime membership subscription bundle.

Netflix disrupting the market by changing the way people consume media.

Airbnb entering and then dominating the short term rental and vacation market through shared homes.

Uber disrupting the taxi industry with mobile ride hailing.
Walmart constantly optimizing their supply chain and investor logistics to keep the lowest price possible.

McDonald’s adding components of big data and machine learning to drive-thrus which adjust menu offerings based on factors like weather, time of day, local traffic, and historical sales.

Home runs are most often noticed in the sport of baseball and tend to make up the bulk of highlight reels and headlines. And while home runs can have a big impact, did you know that they statistically make up a small portion of total hits in the game? 

Similarly, disruptive innovation tends to grab the most media attention due to the impact it can have. But like home runs, they make up a small chunk of the overall innovation universe, while also tending to be riskier bets. 

On the other hand, persistent and efficiency forms of innovation are gradual in their impacts, but are much more frequent in occurrences, making them a much larger part of the growing levels of innovation today. These forms of innovation are akin to hitting singles (going to first base), which make up the majority of hits in baseball. 

The Data Behind Singles and Home Runs

Singles make up over 60% of all hits in Major League Baseball (MLB). What’s more, they’ve had a track record of doing so for 150 years, going back to 1870. Home runs on the other hand represent around 15% of all hits. 

When it comes to investing, this doesn’t mean home runs should be ignored. Rather, certain strategies may be better suited to outcomes that are statistically much more likely to occur. 

Furthermore, some investors may have been led to believe that only a select subset of companies are innovating. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

An Innovative World

Research and Development (R&D) and patent applications are rising and have been for decades. In fact, in the U.S., total patent applications have shot up nearly six times. 

DecadeTotal U.S. Patent Applications

On the R&D side, total global spending grew from $500 billion in 1996 to $2.2 trillion in 2018. In addition, estimates say global R&D can pass $3 trillion in the 2020s. 

Trillions of dollars being spent in R&D and hundreds of thousands of patent applications every year suggest innovation is becoming more and more of a priority. However, like singles in baseball, much of this innovation can go unnoticed. 

Why Persistent and Efficiency Innovation are Underrated

Representing almost two-thirds of all hits, it’s clear that singles are fundamental to successful games, seasons, and championships. 

Like singles, persistent and efficiency forms of innovation are much more frequent and can be a key driver of success in investing. Furthermore, these forms of innovation exist in practically all industries, sectors, and regions. In the 21st century, where business has become increasingly competitive, innovation is no longer a choice, but a requirement. 

Those who choose not to prioritize innovation may suffer at their own peril by seeing competitive market positions falter, just as many S&P 500 companies have been witnessing for decades. From 1965 to 2020, the average lifespan of a company in the index has trimmed from a high of over 35 years to around 20 years today.

One possible way companies can keep their competitive advantage is by maintaining high levels of innovation. and incorporating it into the company’s cultural DNA.

Guinness Atkinson Sees Innovation Differently

Forward-thinking asset management firm Guinness Atkinson Funds invests in innovation with the firm belief that it can stand the test of time. This means: 

  • Widening the scope of markets and regions to invest in.
  • Seeking to capitalize on innovation without entering hype territory.
  • Using rigorous criteria when selecting companies.
  • Rooting valuation and fundamentals deep into the analysis process.

With a deep understanding of the trends driving today’s hyper-competitive business environment, Guinness Atkinson Funds believes that much like hitting singles in baseball, investing in persistent progress is key to investing in the future.

>>>Invest in purposeful innovation with proven results. Visit to learn more now.

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