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Episode Description:

Ellen Ellison is the Chief Investment Officer of the University of Illinois Foundation, which she joined in 2013 as its first leader of the now $1.7 billion pool of assets. Ellen restarted a program and a portfolio from scratch at a time when longer-established University investment offices already had their chips carefully placed in the markets. Yet with a small team, she built a clever portfolio and is starting to reap its rewards.

Prior to joining Illinois, Ellen was the Executive Director of Investments at the University of Miami for five years, the leader of a small family office for a year, and a thirteen-year veteran of Fiduciary Trust Company. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University Business School, and currently sits on the Investment Committee for Mount Holyoke.

Our conversation starts with Ellen’s career path and dives into the challenge of starting an endowment investment program from the ground up, including establishing governance practices and figuring out when to put cash to work when markets feel pricey. Her favorite opportunities in the market, including a long discussion of agriculture investing, offers a very different take on the world today.

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