Diversity plays a major role in choosing University investments

Diversity plays a major role in choosing University investments

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

Diversity plays a major role in choosing University investments

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

Creating a diverse culture of belonging has been an inherent piece of the University of Miami’s mission since its inception. While fostering respect and strengthening communities remain at the forefront of the University’s drive, the commitment to continuous improvement extends beyond the academic lens and is interwoven with every business decision, including investing. 

In July, University of Miami President Julio Frenk unveiled a 15-point plan—reaffirming his commitment to racial and ethnic equality—in further pursuit of racial justice within the campus community and beyond. Ensuring that all aspects of the University are actively engaged in advancing diversity efforts, the comprehensive plan also provides actionable items in relation to investment managers, further aligning the University’s investment management practices with larger efforts to foster and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

Charmel Maynard, associate vice president, chief investment officer, and treasurer, leads the University’s investment efforts, including endowment and pension funds, capital structure, liquidity, and debt issuances. He works alongside Brandon Gilliland, vice president and chief financial officer, and Jacqueline A. Travisano, executive vice president for business and finance and chief operating officer, with a focus on improving the financial performance of the University and instilling the importance of diversity as a top priority for the financial affairs team. 

“Diversity has always played a significant role in the success of the University’s investments and financial performance, but we fully acknowledge that there is room to do even more,” shared Maynard. “We believe that embracing diversity within our portfolios and team enables us to gain a competitive edge, ultimately resulting in greater financial sustainability.”

As the University continues to find new ways to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Maynard leads the way by encouraging current and future institutional investors to act responsibly. 

“With respect to investments, we are taking a multi-pronged approach to make diversity a priority. This includes engaging existing investment managers to understand and support their DEI efforts, ensuring that we open our pipeline to new minority investment managers, and setting specific diversity targets within our portfolios to strengthen representation,” said Maynard. 

He explained that these steps will allow the University to act with intention, holding investment managers and financial teams accountable for delivering on diversity goals.

Travisano also pointed out the imperative need for leaders in higher education to work closely with their colleagues, trustees, and the broader community to focus on the tasks at hand. “Our endowment and investment portfolios serve both the current needs of the University and needs of future generations,” she said. “As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that the choices we make reflect our mission and values and inspire our partners to do the same.” 

While the University has remained steadfast in its commitment to advancing educational and programmatic efforts surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion, conversations throughout the nation are reshaping the ways in which academia—specifically endowments and foundations—invests. 

“I am hopeful that recent discussions will continue to challenge the narrative that investment performance and diversity are mutually exclusive,” said Maynard.

Just as Maynard has championed on behalf of the University, he is hopeful that big investors will implement quantifiable measures to hold managers accountable when making investment decisions. 

“Research continues to show that diversity is an enhancer to investment performance and we plan to further contribute to this effort,” Maynard added. “Producing higher investment returns enables us to further the University’s mission of transforming lives through education, research, innovation, and service."