Finance: Investment arm for Cambridge

Cambridge has become the first UK university to have an in-house investment office - and it is likely to be the only one, according to sector finance experts.

Last week's appointment of Nick Cavalla to lead the Cambridge investment team sparked speculation that other universities would follow suit.

Phil Harding, chair of the British University Finance Directors' Group, welcomed the news, but was not optimistic that there would be a rush to copy the Cambridge model.

"I think other universities would love to follow suit and would love to have the scale of endowments Cambridge has," he said. "But even Cambridge is still a very long way behind educational institutions in America."

Cavalla, who is currently chief investment officer at Man Global Stategies, will be in overall charge of Cambridge's £1.2bn University Endowment Fund, which has been in the top 15 per cent of UK charity funds over the past decade.

Karl Sternberg, founder of Oxford Investment Partners, an independent fund management company that carries investments from three Oxford colleges, said he was delighted Cambridge had recognised the importance of having a business approach to university investments.

"It is a sensible move," said Sternberg. "It's just a shame that Oxford hasn't done anything similar. The issue for Oxford is that its assets are more dispersed among the colleges, so it is more difficult to justify the cost of having an investment officer for its central university fund."

Paul Palmer, professor of voluntary sector management at the Cass Business School, said Cambridge would have to work hard to maximise the impact of its investments.

"Yale actively fundraises and plants money into its endowments, but will Cambridge do the same?" he asked. "It's not just about investment return but also fresh injections of capital.

"Once you look beyond Oxford and Cambridge, British universities are relatively poverty-stricken. Perhaps they could group their endowments."

FACT FILE

Nick Cavalla, chief investment officer at Man Global Strategies, will lead the Cambridge investment team.

He will manage the Cambridge University Endowment Fund, worth £1.2bn.

Each of the 31 Cambridge colleges has its own investments, which are managed separately. They are worth £2.9bn combined.

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