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DEI Thought Leader: Alice Ruth, Chief Executive Officer Dartmouth Investment Office, Dartmouth College

Institutional Investor • 17 March 2023

Investing in the Future

At its DE&I Roundtable in October 2022, Institutional Investor recognized 12 industry leaders for their work, commitment, and leadership in promoting diversity. Here are excerpts from our recent conversation with Alice Ruth, who has served as Chief Investment Officer and Chief Executive Officer of the Dartmouth College Investment Office (“DCIO”) since 2017.

Alice Ruth has cultivated a broadly diverse management team at Dartmouth, wherein 60% of the Investment Office team are women or from non-white backgrounds. Since 2020, the Dartmouth Investment Team has broadened the commitment to diversity in the industry through its Dartmouth Investment Office Fellowship and Internship programs, which are intended to provide credentials for recent college graduates. To date, over 60 students have completed one of these two programs. Now our team is working with asset managers in an effort to place these students in internships.

Alice is the former CIO of Willett Advisors and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Previously, for 12 years she was in equity research for Montgomery Securities, most recently as Managing Director and co-director of equity research. Prior to that, she worked as an economic analyst at Morgan Stanley. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth College. 

The following has been edited for clarity.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your institution.

I stepped into this role in 2017, after serving as CIO for a large family office, and before that for a large foundation. In the Dartmouth investment office, we are a team of 19. The total AUM is about $9 billion; of that, just over $8 billion is in the endowment as of June 30, 2022. Over these six years, I have been compelled to be at Dartmouth because working at an educational institution is how we can extend our knowledge for the future: Being a part of this whole process has meant a lot. 

What effects have your efforts to build a diverse team had on your teams and institution?

We have embedded DE&I into all aspects of our business. That includes our sourcing and manager relationships. For example, we have formed a diverse manager database (now tracking over 800 firms), and we track our prospective manager meetings more deliberately. This is to ensure our sourcing adequately and actively accesses talented people from diverse backgrounds so they can be evaluated effectively for a spot in the portfolio. In the past three years, we have increased the number manager meetings lead by diverse managers by 50%. Our portfolio is managed by an increasingly diverse roster of managers: As of 2021, 24% of our assets are managed by Hispanic, Asian and Black investors.

DCIO is in the business of making the best fund manager selections and portfolio decisions on a risk and return basis. To do so, we need to consider managers from all types of backgrounds to best understand the opportunity set. Moreover, our decisions benefit from a team that is diverse and a process that facilitates all important viewpoints to be considered. We need perspectives from people from all types of backgrounds to make well-informed investments. The only way you can get people to be included fully is to have an equal perspective and mindset.

How do you measure diversity within your institution?

When I arrived six years ago, we had a modest size team of 13. However, as the AUM has grown, we have expanded the team and have been able to add more diversity. To do so, we made deliberate changes to our outreach and recruiting process to source a broader set of potential candidates. We needed to cultivate additional networks professionally. Thus far, we are making good progress. In total, 60% of the team are women or from a diverse background.

In a perfect world, we believe that success in DEI will lead to a steady state where the organization has embedded diversity in all practices and mindset. In Dartmouth’s case, we want to ensure that the views of our faculty, staff and administration are evolving toward an equal and open opportunity mindset, regardless of demography or heritage. To do so in our office, we go far beyond simplistic training. We developed Guiding Principles of our Action Plan that are part of all aspects of our work. Additionally, we are trying to help cultivate an industry with more diversity and accountability by making our actions and data publicly available. 

Our Action Plan and our data can be found at…

Another dimension of our action plan is our student involvement. We have launched three new programs: 

The Dartmouth College Investment Office Fellowship is a summer program for students on campus in Hanover. We invite students - including those who have not been exposed to finance, or don’t have any prerequisites - to join the fellowship program. It’s six weeks long, and we rotate through six modules of investing. In the summer of 2021, 28 students completed the course; last year, 30 completed it, with a highly diverse student cohort. 

Second, we re-imagined and relaunched our Winter Internship Program in 2022. The DCIO hosts three Dartmouth students in our Boston office for a 10-week program. These students learn about investing and portfolio management, gain exposure to different asset classes, and complete a capstone project. They work side-by-side with our team and gain insight into the profession. 

Third, we re-started a student work-study module, wherein DCIO hires one to two students each term. This role is primarily in Hanover, where these students have a chance to learn about the lifecycle of an investment, including operations, accounting and legal.

Overall, our work with students is energizing and enlightening to our diversity initiative. During the past year, we have shared information on the student programs with our fund managers and have learned that several have first -generation college student or other internship programs, or job opportunities that are a match for some of our students. We are in the early stages of helping to connect these students with our managers for consideration for these opportunities, and we are thrilled to offer positions designed to enhance their learning about investments and create a credential of working in an investment office.

For the full list of DEI Award winners, visit Allocator Intel here.

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