North Dakota Legacy Fund Strategy Shift

Maximizing Returns: North Dakota Legacy Fund Adopts New Investment Strategy


In a strategic move to boost returns, the North Dakota Legacy Fund has unveiled a new investment strategy aimed at increasing the fund’s average annual return over the next decade. This shift towards a more aggressive approach involves adjusting the stock portfolio, reducing bond holdings, and holding fewer liquid assets. The anticipated average annual return of 6.3% marks a significant improvement over the previous 5%, potentially growing the $9.4 billion Legacy Fund to $20 billion in 10 years.

Background and Purpose of the Legacy Fund

Established in 2010, the Legacy Fund draws 30% of North Dakota’s oil and gas revenues to create a strategic investment fund. This fund serves as a financial cushion for state government operations, particularly when petroleum revenues, contributing to 53% of the state’s general fund, decline over time. A key challenge has been the requirement to maintain liquid assets, which has limited the fund’s growth potential.

Overcoming Hindrances

A major hindrance to the Legacy Fund’s growth has been the need to keep up to 15% of the fund in liquid assets due to legislative provisions allowing a potential 15% withdrawal of the fund’s principal. However, a resolution on the November ballot seeks to reduce this withdrawal limit to 5%, enabling a more substantial portion of the fund’s assets to be invested in higher-yielding opportunities.

Shifting to a Less Liquid Portfolio

The new investment strategy involves a shift to a less liquid investment portfolio, allowing for increased investments in assets with higher returns. This change is considered more impactful than the somewhat aggressive investment strategy itself. The move aims to capitalize on opportunities that can deliver greater returns while maintaining a balance between risk and liquidity.

Evolution of Investment Strategies

Initially invested conservatively in low-return certificates of deposit, the Legacy Fund has evolved its investment strategy over the years to generate higher returns. The fund has diversified its portfolio, embracing less risk-averse approaches to achieve better financial performance. The recent strategy allows for more significant allocations to illiquid assets, including private equity investments.

Private Equity and Potential Returns

The Legacy Fund’s ability to invest in private equity is a noteworthy addition to its strategy. Private equity, known for its longer investment horizon, offers the potential for high returns over time. By decreasing investments in low-returning liquid assets, the fund aims to tap into the growth opportunities presented by private equity investments.

Projected Impact on Returns

Financial consultants working with the state project that the new strategy could increase the Legacy Fund’s average returns by 1.3%, potentially resulting in an additional $800 million to $900 million over the next decade. As of November 30, 2023, the fund has already returned 8.5% year to date.

Significance for Energy Industry Investors

For energy industry investors or prospective investors, the North Dakota Legacy Fund’s new investment strategy holds importance. The fund’s connection to oil and gas revenues underscores its relevance to the energy sector. By adopting a more aggressive approach, the Legacy Fund aims to optimize returns, presenting an attractive opportunity for investors seeking growth in the energy investment landscape.

Fueling Growth in the Energy Sector

As the Legacy Fund draws 30% of North Dakota’s oil and gas revenues to create a strategic investment pool, the implications of its new investment strategy extend far beyond the financial landscape. With petroleum revenues contributing significantly to the state’s general fund, the Legacy Fund serves as a crucial financial buffer for state operations when faced with inevitable declines in oil and gas revenues over time. Now, with a revamped strategy geared towards higher returns, the Legacy Fund becomes even more compelling for energy industry investors seeking growth opportunities in a dynamic market.


The North Dakota Legacy Fund’s shift to a new investment strategy signals a commitment to maximizing returns and overcoming challenges that have hindered its growth. As the effects of these changes gradually become evident, energy industry investors should take note of the potential opportunities arising from the fund’s evolving approach. The Legacy Fund’s focus on long-term growth aligns with the energy industry’s dynamics, making it a compelling prospect for those seeking strategic and profitable investments.

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Greg Hillman


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