Harvard hires TIAA-CREF farmland investor to lead natural resources

Colin Butterfield, who managed Brazilian farmland investments for a TIAA-CREF and Cosan Alimentos JV, will lead the university endowment's natural resources strategy.

The $37.6 billion Harvard Management Company has appointed former TIAA Global Agriculture Fund committee member Colin Butterfield as managing director of its natural resources portfolio.

Butterfield’s main expertise is in Brazil, where he has been based since 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was most recently chief executive of Brazilian farmland investment company Radar, a joint venture between TIAA-CREF and Cosan Alimentos.

HMC has been without a head of natural resources since Alvaro Aguirre stepped down in September 2015 after 12 years at the fund. He founded Folium Capital with the endowment’s head of alternative assets Andrew Wiltshire.

The firm was reported by Bloomberg last month to be raising a $500 million timber and agricultural fund.

HMC head of public markets René Canezin said: “Colin brings substantial technical expertise in natural resources, including deep insight into the operating and financial viability of investment opportunities across the globe. We are delighted to welcome Colin to our team.”

“Natural resources investments have been a long-time contributor to the overall endowment portfolio and we will look to Colin to refine our strategy and to bring the best opportunities at scale to our portfolio.”

HMC’s target allocation for natural resources is between 6 and 16 percent, according to its 2015 annual report. The natural resources and commodities portfolio returned 3.5 percent in 2015, exceeding its benchmark by 0.4 percent, and providing “generally subdued returns”, according to the report.

HMC cited low soft commodity prices and weak land prices for its assets in Latin America as weighing down high performances from other timber and agri assets. The endowment as a whole returned 5.8 percent in 2015.