Investment Process at Oxford Endowment

The school’s endowment describes how they invest on page twelve of their latest report.

Our team has the freedom to make investments today that may not come to fruition during their lifetime. We pursue long term themes across asset groups, where we believe tensions, changes or inefficiencies in economies and markets provide investment opportunities. We build constructive relationships, partnering for the long term and across market cycles. The stability of the Fund’s long term capital helps us secure allocations in the most sought after investment groups.

Sourcing

In a world focused on short term results, many investors choose to invest in markets rather than businesses. Investment talent is difficult to find and can be hard to access, so investors have increasingly defaulted to simply owning every company in an index, regardless of the quality of the management team or the long term viability of the business. Our investment philosophy is designed to refine our potential investor universe. We look for investment groups that have: aligned interests with their investors; deep expertise in their chosen markets; a small number of holdings; exceptional understanding of their investments and constructive relationships with OU Endowment Management.

During sourcing, we will screen ideas on a variety of factors including market structure, experience of team and return potential; as well as assessing risk factors of a strategy such as social, environmental, political and reputational.

Due diligence

Before any investment is made, we complete a detailed due diligence process to ensure an idea matches our expectations. As an endowment with a dedicated investment team we can often invest in new areas that require more complex diligence. This involves significant analysis of the investment thesis and its ability to contribute to the long term performance of the Oxford Endowment Fund, alongside extensive operational due diligence to ensure robust infrastructure and controls. We spend considerable time understanding the teams and individuals who will steward the assets.

Evaluation

We have an ongoing dialogue with our investment managers to ensure a full understanding of progress against the stated strategy, assets held and potential risks within the Fund. We prefer groups whose investment style is to hold a concentrated number of companies and engage with their management teams regularly.

We are disciplined with investments made, and our ongoing evaluation includes analysis of: underlying companies, return objective, organizational changes and social, environmental, governance or reputational concerns.

The Oxford Endowment Fund Report 2018

On a separate note, what is papyrology?

At Oxyrhynchus, though, an entire culture was revealed in the rubbish, unfiltered by monkish taste, and dating directly from antiquity: previously lost works by canonical writers such as Sappho, Pindar, and Menander; fragments of biblical texts; letters, bills, receipts, tax returns, even magical spells. Legally, under the colonial conditions of the time, the fragments became the property of the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society) and were taken to Oxford, where for years, they were simply kept in boxes in Grenfell and Hunt’s rooms in Queen’s College, Oxford, as the scholars, then their successors, started to sift, edit and publish them.

Oxyrhynchus spawned a whole new sub-discipline of classics: papyrology. More than a century after the discoveries, one of papyrology’s main tasks is to publish these scrappy manuscripts. That involves offering a proposed reconstruction of a text; translating and dating it; and producing a commentary on its significance. Over the past century, just over 5,000 of the half-million Oxyrhynchus papyri have been published. Each appearance of a volume in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Series – there are now 83 – is a real event for classicists, historians, theologians. “They redraw the map of what we know,” said Tim Whitmarsh, professor of Greek at Cambridge.

To be a papyrologist – to tease sense from damaged, ancient, near-illegible writing – you need to possess linguistic brilliance, a profound historical imagination, and a codebreaker’s ability to play with different hypotheses of a text’s meaning. It is patient, painstaking work – but also, exciting. It offers the thrill of discovery. One papyrologist told me, “I could have spent my career thinking about old chestnuts like the terminal date of Caesar’s command, or whatever. But what I love is reading stuff that no one has read before.”

Today, the Oxyrhynchus collection is held in a back room on the first floor of Oxford’s Sackler classics library, where you’ll see a scholarly mess of paperwork, microscopes and books. The collection’s walls are lined with tall, locked cupboards, filled with ranks of boxes. Open one, and you will see the dark-brown papyrus, astonishingly tough given its age, still wrapped in 1910s and 20s pages of the university newspaper, the Oxford Gazette. Some fragments are large, even up to A4 size; many are tiny, known as “cornflakes” in the trade.

A scandal in Oxford: the curious case of the stolen gospel, The Guardian

It’s remarkable that the study of ancient manuscripts exists.

The Radcliffe Camera at Oxford.
Photo by Agnieszka M on Unsplash

Post by Marcelino Pantoja