Divine intervention? Church of England fund blessed with stellar returns

Helen Cahill
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The fund performed far beyond its stated aim (Source: Getty)

The Church of England's investment fund has become one of the world's top-ranking endowment funds after it made a 17.1 per cent return on its assets last year.

The £7.9bn fund was boosted by its investments in global equities, private equity, and timber, and achieved its best returns for more than 30 years, according to the Church Commissioners' 2016 annual report.

The strong performance in global equities (which achieved a 33 per cent return) was partly due to the devaluation of sterling.

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The fund, which is run by a team of 35 investment experts, aims to achieve a return in line with inflation, plus five percentage points, which in 2016 would have been 7.5 per cent.

Sir Andreas Whittam Smith, the First Church Estates Commissioner, said: "Our minimum purpose is to maintain the real value of the fund through time so that future generations of churchgoers will enjoy the same backing from the Commissioners' funds that our generation does.

"In practice, however, we aim considerably higher."

He said that the success of the fund was in part due to its ability to invest in illiquid assets such as property; nearly 30 per cent of the fund is invested in a mix of commercial, residential and rural real estate. In addition, the sheer size of the fund means the Church Commissioners can opt for a wide range of investments.

And the Commissioners only work for one client, the Church, meaning the fund only needs to accommodate a single brief.

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