Responsible investments generated a 24% return for the University of Helsinki in 2021

The year 2021 was the first in which all the University’s investments were allocated in accordance with its new principles for responsible investment. The University’s impact investing progressed by leaps and bounds.

In 2021, the University of Helsinki saw a 24.17% return on its investments. The investment assets increased by more than a hundred million euros, totalling €675 million at the end of the year.

“Our excellent returns were propelled by efficient investments in listed instruments and successful investments in University-based growth companies. In the period 2019–2021, the University’s risk-adjusted excess return (alpha) amounted to nearly six per cent annually,” says Anders Ekholm, the University’s Chief Investment Officer.

However, to achieve reliable performance evaluation statistics, data must be collected over a considerably longer period; this better reflects the University’s long-term investment horizon.

The University’s impact investing progressed by leaps and bounds last year. Mobidiag Oy was sold to Hologic Inc, a listed US company (Nasdaq: HOLX), for more than €600 million. The University held approximately eight per cent of the company. The University and Finnfund, a development financier, jointly entered into a loan commitment of €10 million to support microcredit institutions in African and Asian developing economies. The University also supported several research-based growth companies.

“The University takes a long, 25-year approach to investing. A steady spending policy that is not directly dependent on annual returns ensures adequate assets for endowed professorships, for instance,” says Chief Financial Officer Marjo Berglund.

In 2021, the University received €7 million from its investments. In the period 2010–2021, a total of €72 million were distributed in profits.

“The exceptional Mobidiag deal will allow us to invest an additional €9 million over the next three years into recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and promoting the objectives of the University’s strategic plan,” says Berglund.

The HELSEED entrepreneurship programme becomes a part of the educational offering

The University’s HELSEED student entrepreneurship programme was developed in various ways over the year. With support from the Tradeka Foundation, a new HELSEED endowment fund was set up to support growth companies established by students. The fund’s first investments were made in a company that is developing an environmentally friendly cultivation platform and in another one developing a digital solution for cancer care. The University also approved the HELSEED programme as part of its course offering, meaning that students can earn three credits by participating in the programme.

Last year was the first in which all the University’s investment assets were allocated in accordance with the University’s principles for responsible investment activities, approved in 2019. This enables responsibility and sustainability to be assessed more accurately. The companies owned by the University generate carbon emissions as low as half that of companies on average.

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