Leading U.S. University

Transforming Endowment Operations


The endowment of a leading U.S. University was growing in size and complexity. The operations group, which had historically been a finance and accounting function, needed to step up its game in terms of the strategic leadership it was providing to the endowment. It needed to help shape and implement more sophisticated risk management policies and controls. As well it needed to develop more robust technological solutions in a variety of areas.

The COO of the Endowment engaged The Sundheim Group to help the Operations group better define their mandate, and then step up their leadership to meet it.

How we supported the client

Developed a Strategic Operating Plan – The Operations group had a long list of tasks and projects they were working on, but no cohesive plan that would allow them to prioritize efforts and communicate their strategy with portfolio managers (their customers). We helped them collect and categorize all current and intended efforts which then set up conversations around gaps and priorities. We then helped them turn these priorities into a strategic operating plan to focus their time and energy in the coming years.

Designed and led Operations team offsites – The Operations group hadn’t historically considered themselves a team. They tended to regard themselves as individuals doing individual jobs. However, the increased complexity at the endowment was requiring that they collaborate more and lead their work in a more consultative fashion. In three offsites over two years, we explored and strengthened their team leadership approach.

Coached and advised leaders, particularly around execution – For many, the leadership behaviors required of the team were new. We coached and advised them on how to get better at consulting with clients, showing up as leaders, pushing back productively, and communicating effectively.

The engagement spanned two years, with much of the work taking place in the first year.


Over the two years we worked together, the Operations team transformed their approach to their work. They became consultative leaders at the endowment guiding the execution of a variety of mission-critical complex initiatives.

“The new Ops team is a major upgrade.  I know where to turn to get things done now.  Their great attitude and customer-service mindset has made our processes less mysterious and our jobs easier.  Their help has been instrumental in getting a new asset class up and running from scratch.”
Chief Risk Officer

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