"Stock"-full of Women in Finance

“As a woman in finance, you have to use your voice and stay the course. And you absolutely have to be resilient. If you can do that, you’ll succeed. No doubt about it,” urged Kelly Grier, EY’s US Chairman and Managing Partner and Americas Managing Partner, last month at William & Mary’s 4th annual Women’s Stock Pitch & Leadership Summit. As the opening keynote speaker for the two-day event which ran Friday, March 29th to Saturday, March 30th, Grier discussed the experiences she’s had in the finance industry throughout her 28-year tenure at EY. Her keynote was facilitated by Todd Boehly, Chairman, CEO, and Controlling Member of Eldridge Industries, for which the Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance is named.

Following Grier’s remarks, the summit consisted of a stock pitch competition, panel information sessions, and coaching and networking seminars. The summit was one of many events this year celebrating William & Mary’s 100th anniversary of co-education, and the stock pitch competition was certainly the most anticipated component of the weekend’s activities. Teams of talented students from top universities across the globe were invited to participate in the competition by the William & Mary chapter of Smart Woman Securities (SWS).

After the initial round of pitches, four teams advanced to the final round: William & Mary, Griffith University, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Sydney, recommending buys for T-Mobile, Capri, Wingstop, and Nike, respectively. Following the final pitches, which were judged by representatives from leading financial firms such as Morgan Stanley, Capital Group, T. Rowe Price, UBS, and Two Sigma Investments, the team representing the University of Pennsylvania took home the grand prize of $2,500. The University of Sydney followed in second place and William & Mary and Griffith University rounded out the group. Joshita Varshney and Ria Gandhi, the sophomores representing the University of Pennsylvania and this year’s stock pitch competition champions, said that they’re “just really excited about getting to see how what [we’ve] learned in [our] finance classes can be applied to the real world” and also how nice it is to know that a stock pitch isn’t as intimidating as it seems once you do it. “Going forward, we’re just really excited about this,” they added. Finalists from the University of Sydney and Griffith University, who had traveled from Australia for the competition, remarked that “the experience overall was amazing and so welcoming! We love William & Mary, and we’re just so overwhelmed and excited by the amount of support from females in the industry.” The William & Mary team, which consisted of juniors Jay Thompson, Alicia Draper, Vivian Xi, and sophomore Alden Wagner, notably reached the finalist round for the first time since 2016. “It was really exciting to represent W&M at this event,” said Wagner, “especially with the anniversary of 100 years of women at the College being celebrated this year. I love that we are one of only two universities in the world to host an undergraduate women’s stock pitch competition and it was just such a rewarding experience overall!” Her teammate Draper shared these sentiments, stating that “working alongside the most fierce women, who are passionate about investments, is a memory I will never forget. I feel so lucky to have represented W&M, as I feel the event allows for like-minded women – those who hope to disrupt the male-centric environment of finance – to unite and empower one another.”

Apart from those participating in the stock pitch competition, over 80 W&M students attended the event to learn more about the world of finance and the opportunities offered at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. “I learned so many valuable skills for networking with employers and handling various situations in the work place,” said freshman Megan Brunick. “I think leadership is such an important aspect of any profession, especially in business, so it is never too early to practice and enhance your skills. I really enjoyed meeting other students from W&M and across the world because together we provided unique perspectives and contributed to our collective growth as female leaders.” The summit’s informational panels on Saturday primarily focused on strategies for building up women within an organization and the impact of emotional intelligence on career success. The coaching sessions centered on making a lasting first impression through elevator pitches and forging effective professional connections in networking settings.

“It’s so wonderful to see so many students competing…and it’s equally amazing to see the incredible support from the impressive group of judges and the sponsorship from private individuals and global institutions,” said Ann Benjamin, the lunch keynote speaker on Saturday. Benjamin is a private investor and philanthropist who spent 34 years in the investment management business before retiring at the end of 2015. “As a woman who spent her entire career in the world of finance, it is particularly gratifying to see these presentations,” Benjamin commented. “One of the most difficult tasks I had throughout my entire career was recruiting and hiring talented, articulate young women. I can only say that if I had this incredible young pool of women, my life would’ve been a lot easier.” Ultimately, Benjamin encouraged everyone in attendance to “think of yourself as the CEO of a business – a business called you. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your company.” And with the number of students competing in the annual stock pitch competition increasing each year, it seems that prospective female financiers have gotten Benjamin’s message and are actively working on investing in themselves.