This paper provides both a retrospective of the last two decades of growth in alternatives to assess the extent to which alternatives have "worked" and offers a perspective on the role and relative importance of alternatives going forward.
Alternatives have now become the traditional. It is interesting to note that while 30 years ago alternatives were in fact "alternatives", they have now become mainstream. The latest NACUBO -- Commonfund Study of Endowments (NCSE) reports that more than half of all assets held by university endowments are in a broad array of strategies that we refer to as alternatives.
And while the magnitude of allocations to alternatives among endowments and foundations remains skewed to the largest pools, institutions of all sizes have increased allocations and in the last decade allocations are increasing dramatically among other institutional pools, most notably pension funds. What has not changed is the wide dispersion of returns in alternative investments, making manager access and selection key determinants of success.