Why Cash Isn’t Necessarily King: The Importance of an Investment Policy Statement

12/11/2016 9:56 AM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

By: Carey Freimuth, Caritas Financial
A primary responsibility of board members is to serve as trustees of the organization’s assets by exercising due diligence to ensure that its financial situation remains sound. But while fiduciaries need to protect an organization’s assets, they also need to ensure that aversion to risk doesn’t compromise the mission of the organization over the long term.

The old adage ‘cash is king’ doesn’t always apply in the world of investments. While many fiduciaries believe they are being prudent by conservatively investing all the organization’s assets in cash, this can actually lose them money in real dollar value. Simply put, the compounding effect of inflation over time results in erosion of the organization’s purchasing power.

What is an IPS?
The board needs to weigh the options and establish guidelines and policies that minimize their exposure to identified portfolio risks such as a lack of diversification or a level of volatility that is mismatched with the IPS’s stated goals and time horizon. This is where the Investment Policy Statement (IPS) comes into play as an important document by which investment decisions are based. In its most basic form, an IPS is a document which sets forth in writing how an institution’s money is to be managed by presenting financial objectives in the context of how much risk the fiduciaries are willing and able to bear. While an IPS should be customized to meet the needs and mission of the organization, the document should include:

  • Asset allocation: What types of investments will meet the organization’s goals and risk tolerance?
  • Time horizon: When will the funds be needed or will they be held into perpetuity?
  • Rebalancing and spending policy: To what degree does the organization depend on the funds to support their operating budget?
  • Moral or ideological convictions of the organization: Are there any restrictions on holdings based on these beliefs or is socially responsible investing a priority?
  • Responsibilities and roles: What is each party’s involvement in the investment decision making process and is this clearly defined?

Why have one at all?

An IPS is essential to an organization’s strategic and financial growth. They offer three major benefits:
1. Provide financial discipline in tough times. An IPS instills discipline in times of market volatility by clearly defining the goals and objectives of the portfolio while outlining a specific plan and strategy to manage the funds in order to reach those goals. It can also be used as a tool to manage and minimize any risks identified throughout the process.
2. Maintain strategic intent. A sound, thoughtful IPS is crucial to advancing the strategic intent of the organization while helping fiduciaries mitigate potential risks to the assets. It helps everyone focus on the mission of the organization and provides continuity in decision making.
3. Reassure donors. By maintaining discipline during tough times and staying true to your organizational mission, you can demonstrate to potential donors your commitment to managing the assets with care, skill and prudence. When a donor contributes money, they do so with the expectation that the board will invest wisely and use that money to further the mission of the organization.
The best way to give donors confidence in this is through the creation and regular review of an IPS[1].

Example of IPS template:

Best of Luck,
Carey Freimuth

[1] While the document is not meant to be changed frequently, it should be periodically reviewed to ensure all language is up-to-date reflecting current fiduciary standards and long-term objectives. For example, the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) of 2006 replaces the Uniform Management of Institutional Funds Act (UMIFA) of 1972. It is important to review an IPS to ensure it fully captures the updates of such legislation.

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