Some of the largest university endowments in the United States have been quietly buying cryptocurrency for about a year through accounts held at Coinbase and other exchanges, CoinDesk has learned.
According to two sources familiar with the situation, Harvard, Yale, Brown and the University of Michigan as well as several other colleges have bought cryptocurrencies directly from the exchanges. (Several Ivy League endowments took an interest in blockchain technology through crypto-focused venture capital funds in 2018.)
“There are quite a few,” said a source who asked to remain anonymous. “There are a lot of endowments allocating a bit to crypto at the moment.”
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Yale and Brown have not responded to requests for comment at press time. When contacted by CoinDesk, the Harvard and University of Michigan endowments declined to comment. Coinbase also declined to comment. University endowments received a single mention in Coinbase’s annual report for 2020, but without naming any names.
Some of the university endowments in question may have held accounts with Coinbase for 18 months, according to a source.
“It could be since mid-2019,” the source said. “Most have been for at least a year. I think they will probably discuss it publicly at some point this year. I suspect they would be sitting on pretty chunks back. “
University endowments are pools of capital accumulated by academic institutions, often in the form of charitable donations. These funds, which support education and research, can be allocated to various assets for investment purposes.
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Harvard’s is the largest university endowment with more than $ 40 billion in assets. Yale has over $ 30 billion, Michigan has about $ 12.5 billion, while Brown has $ 4.7 billion. It’s unclear how much each fund has allocated to crypto, but it’s likely a fraction of a percent of their total assets.
In 2018, David Swensen, director of investments at Yale University, made headlines by supporting two crypto-focused venture capital funds, one managed by Andreessen Horowitz and the other launched by the co -Coinbase founder Fred Ehrsam and former Sequoia Capital partner Matt Huang.
Several other universities have followed Yale in supporting crypto VCs, including Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth College, MIT, University of North Carolina, and Michigan. Obviously, some of these schools seem to be taking the next step by investing directly in crypto assets.
The second source, involved in the world of crypto hedge funds, pointed out “a big change” in recent months. “We see the defined benefit pension plans on the verge of making allowances. We see the public pension plans on the verge of making allowances, ”the person said.
“If I had heard this three years ago, I would have said it was wrong,” said Ari Paul, co-founder of BlockTower Capital and previously chief investment officer at the University of Chicago. “But many institutions are now comfortable with bitcoin. They understand this and can just buy it directly, as long as it is from a regulated entity like Coinbase, Fidelity or Anchorage. “