Privilege has its perks. Consider Phillips Academy, the tony boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts. When the school, better known as Andover, recently decided to hire a full-time investment chief for its $625.5 million endowment, the alma mater of both presidents Bush had its pick of Wall Street talent. Its choice: Amy Falls, the former global fixed-income strategist for Morgan Stanley and a 1982 Andover grad.
Of the East Coast's best-known Ivy League feeder schools -- an all-star group that includes Phillips Exeter Academy, St. Paul's School and the Hotchkiss School -- Andover will be the first to have its own CIO. (Most still rely on investment committees and CFOs.) But given the hypercompetitive, upwardly mobile tendencies of New England prep schools, it's hard to imagine that others won't soon follow suit.
"We're certainly not the only ones who have been thinking hard about how to manage an endowment in a changed environment," says Falls, referring to the choppy markets of the past few years. "So I wouldn't be at all surprised to see other schools taking this route, depending on how this experiment goes."
For the past five years, Falls, 40, has helped shape the endowment's strategy as a member of Andover's investment committee. The high school's portfolio, which is big enough that it would rank among the top 100 college endowments, outstripping those of such well-known institutions as Bowdoin College, Oberlin College and Vassar College, has delivered a 6.7 percent annualized return during that time. But this is Falls's first turn as a hands-on money manager, and she's keen to apply her experience as a strategist. An emerging-markets maven, she is particularly interested in the concept of so-called hidden beta, in which the benefits of diversification across asset classes disappear during periods of market stress.
Although the prospect of working for her alma mater is exciting, Falls won't be living in Andover. The school's investment office will be in New York, where she can keep in close contact with other investment committee members and many of the portfolio's 60-odd investment managers.