Cambridge Associates U.S Private Equity Index

Cambridge Associates 3Q15 U.S Private Equity Index & Selected Benchmark Statistics

Cambridge Associates U.S private equity index & selected benchmark statistics for the third quarter ended September 30, 2015.

Cambridge Associates U.S Private Equity Index and Selected Benchmark Statistics

Note on Methodology Changes:

Beginning this quarter, we have updated our approach for the calculation and display of select data points contained in this report:

  1. We have moved to a commitment-based methodology for our equal-weighted return calculation. This is a better approach than the previously used, contribution-based methodology, as it does not vary over time and is more reflective of investor decision-making. Since contributions approach total commitments over time, this change will not have a meaningful impact on older vintage year benchmarks, but you may see some minor shifts in younger vintage year benchmarks.
  2. The minimum and maximum values have been replaces with 5th and 95th percentile breakpoints, as the percentile values are less subject to outliers.


Cambridge Associates’ Private Investments Database is one of the most robust collections of institutional quality private fund performance. It contains the historical performance records of over 1,800 fund managers and their over 6,200 funds. In addition, we capture the performance information (gross) of over 71,000 investments underlying our venture capital, growth equity, buyout, mezzanine and private equity energy funds. This is one of the largest collections of portfolio-level performance information in the world and represents the investments of approximately 80% of these funds on a count basis and 86% on a total commitment basis. This fund and investment-level performance information is drawn from the quarterly and audited annual financial statements of the fund managers and each manager’s reported performance numbers are independently recreated from the financial statements and verified by Cambridge Associates.

Institutional Quality Data

Cambridge Associates strives to include only institutional quality funds in our benchmarks. “Institutional quality” funds, in our definition, tend to meet the following criteria: closed-end funds, commingled funds that invest 3rd party capital (we exclude firms that invest off of their balance sheet, such as a bank’s principal investing group or a corporate’s venture capital arm), and fund vehicles. This institutional quality screen seeks to provide investors with performance data consistent with their investible opportunity set.

Sources of Benchmark Data

Our benchmark database utilizes the quarterly unaudited and annual audited fund financial statements produced by the fund managers (GPs) for their Limited Partners (LPs). These documents are provided to Cambridge Associates by the fund managers themselves. Unlike other data providers, Cambridge Associates does not use Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, regulatory filings, manager surveys, or press “scrapings” to obtain information. Our goal is to have a complete historical record of the quarterly cash flows and net asset values for all funds in the benchmarks. We use a number of paths to encourage fund managers to submit their performance data to our database: our clients for whom we provide private investment performance reporting, our research organization’s regular meetings with thousands of managers, our special projects designed to enhance existing benchmarks or launch new ones, our exclusive relationships with over ten globally-diverse fund manager associations, and finally, our exclusive relationships with Thomson Reuters and the Institutional Limited Partners Association (ILPA). By leveraging these varied sources and proprietary relationships, Cambridge Associates has constructed a rich and diversified benchmark data set.

Vintage Year Definition

Vintage year is defined as the legal inception date as noted in a fund’s financial statement. This date can usually be found in the first note to the audited financial statements and is prior to the first close or capital call.

Timing of Final Benchmarks and Data Evolution

The Cambridge Associates’ benchmarks are reported on a one-quarter lag from the end of the performance quarter due to the reporting time frame of private investments fund managers.

Published Data: When the vast majority of a benchmark group’s (organized by asset class, e.g. Venture Capital or Real Estate) performance information is updated for a performance quarter, that benchmark is considered final and the data is “published” via the quarterly benchmark reports.

Changes to Data: After a benchmark group is published, any updates to historical data for these funds, which can include adding a fund and its performance history to the database (“backfills”) and/or updating past information for an existing fund due to late-arriving, updated, or refined information, would be reflected when that group is published for the next performance quarter.

In addition, Cambridge Associates may change the classification of certain funds; this often driven by the evolution of private investments and the resulting need to introduce new benchmarks or refine our classification scheme. For example, as growth equity emerged as an asset class we reclassified certain venture capital and buyout funds accordingly.

Survivorship Bias: In order to track the performance of a fund in our benchmarks, we require the complete set of financial statements from the fund’s inception to the most current reporting date. When an active fund stops providing financial statements, we reach out to the manager and make several attempts to encourage them to continue to submit their data. We may, during this communication period, roll forward the fund’s last reported quarter’s net asset value (NAV) for several quarters. When we are convinced that the manager will not resume reporting to us, the fund’s entire performance history is removed from the database.

When fund managers stop reporting before their fund’s return history is complete, an element of “survivorship bias” may be introduced to a performance database, which could skew the reported returns upwards if the funds dropping out had poorer returns than those funds that remained. Survivorship bias can affect all investment manager databases, including those for public stock managers and hedge funds. Compared to public stocks and hedge funds, however, the illiquid nature of private investments can actually help limit this survivorship effect. Whereas an underperforming stock manager may simply close up shop or drop out of databases as clients liquidate their positions and fire the manager, private investment partnerships owning illiquid assets continue to exist and require reporting to the limited partners, even if the original manager ceases to exist.

Over the last six years the number of fund managers that stopped reporting to Cambridge Associates represented an average of 0.8% (per year) of the total number of funds in the database during the respective year, and an average of 0.6% (per year) as a percentage of total NAV in the database during that respective year. During that same period the overall number of funds in our database increased by an average of 8% (per year). The performance of the small number of funds that have stopped reporting has been spread amongst all quartiles and has not been concentrated consistently in the poorer performing quartiles.

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