Empowering Women in Finance: Insights from the Eighth Annual Women's Stock Pitch

Stock Pitch Group Photo 2024

This past April, William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business hosted the eighth annual Women's Stock Pitch in Miller Hall, transcending borders and celebrating women in finance. Gathering small teams of 3-4 women from each university spanning six countries and 12 states, this symposium was a nexus of talent, passion, and dedication, drawing participants, talented alums, and corporate sponsors. It was also the most regionally diverse competition to date!

The journey commenced in December 2023 for many, marked by tireless preparation and exhaustive research. Teams meticulously scrutinized companies, crafting investment theses that resonated with their values and convictions. Xuantong Tan, representing the National University of Singapore, articulated her team's enthusiasm for Neste, a Finnish enterprise specializing in sustainable fuel systems. She emphasized their pitch's compelling narrative, highlighting the company's resolute purpose and focus.

"Our team really wanted to pitch more than just a company," Tan said. "We felt that Neste had a compelling story that needed to be told, which became the driving force behind our pitch."

Kendyl George '26, a finance student at William & Mary, reflected on the camaraderie fostered during the arduous preparation phase. Daily rehearsals honed their presentation skills and forged deep bonds among teammates, providing vital support during moments of apprehension.

"Consistent daily practice facilitated mutual support, enhancing our cohesion and confidence duringWSP Judges Panel moments of apprehension," said George. "We aided one another in memorization and provided prompts when necessary or if one of us drew a blank. Moreover, our collective presence and encouragement during the competition further reinforced our unity."

The culmination of months of dedication unfolded on April 6 as teams navigated three rigorous rounds of competition. The intensity peaked in the final showdown, where Utah State University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and New York University emerged as the triumphant finalists.

Following lively presentations and probing inquiries from four industry experts who made up the judges panel, Utah State clinched the top honor. Close behind, Memorial University placed second, and New York University third. Each award was accompanied by a cash prize, a well-earned recognition of their achievements.

Utah State University 1st Place Team"These events are so inspiring," remarked Emerald Spencer of Utah State University, highlighting the newfound confidence and passion for finance instilled by the competition. "Winning has heightened my inspiration, particularly as I hadn't anticipated such an achievement. The practical application of classroom knowledge through experiential learning has been transformative. I now possess a genuine enthusiasm and knowledge of a specific company, enabling me to recommend investment opportunities confidently."

The event's significance transcended mere competition; it served as a platform for empowerment and mentorship. Catherine Faddis '91, a distinguished alumna and senior portfolio manager at Zevin Asset Management, imparted invaluable insights in her Saturday keynote, urging attendees to cherish this critical juncture in their professional journeys.

"I think it's unique and valuable because they get to see in real-time what it's like to pitch a stock to an investor. I wish I had this opportunity as a student," Faddis said. "I think women who are here are rock stars. They are lightyears ahead of anyone. They are learning so much more than they realize. I think they will look back on this as one of the pivotal moments in their life."

Molly Pieroni, president at Yacktman Asset Management, emphasized the importance of the Women's Stock Pitch in amplifying female voices in the finance sector.

"It's all about women sharing their ideas, defending their theses, and competing in a supportive environment," noted Pieroni. "It's a women's stock pitch competition because women need a voice, and sometimes women need a little boost to use their voice."

For participants like Xuantong Tan, the event provided an invaluable opportunity to connect with peers facing similar challenges in the industry, fostering a network of support for future endeavors.

"For me, I think it's about connecting with people who have had similar experiences," Tan said. "It's really about building a network of women who are interested in this field to be able to support each other."

Kendyl George said she is grateful for all the corporate partners who send participants to the stock pitch each year. At the 2023 stock pitch, George met a female representative from a corporate partner who provided her guidance in her finance journey.

"We initially connected during my freshman year, and our bond grew stronger when she returned this year. Upon securing a position on the 2024 stock pitch team, I contacted her via email, and her unwavering support was invaluable," said George. "Our relationship flourished through our shared involvement in the Women's Stock Pitch. It's remarkable how this opportunity catalyzes meaningful connections, fostering relationships that endure long after the event itself."

"I think it's also great that men attend the competition," she added, highlighting the importance of advocacy and collaboration across genders in advancing diversity and inclusion in finance. The competition is open to male competitors and includes male-ally ambassadors assisting teams in various tasks.

"Each year, this platform empowers women to showcase their confidence and competence in finance roles. It's also encouraging to see men participating, fostering advocacy and inclusivity. In business, networking is paramount, regardless of gender. We must support and uplift each other, recognizing that success is collective," imparted George.

The event's international allure attracted participants like Rona Yaniv from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who relished engaging with diverse perspectives and global thought leaders. Indeed, as Kendyl George noted, the competition's international dimension enriched the discourse, reinforcing the universality of stock pitching as a language of opportunity.

"The transition from Israel's informal social structure to the American way of life is intriguing. Collaborating with international teams and gaining insights into other countries' businesses and finances are the motivating factors behind this journey," conveyed Yaniv.

Professor Julie Agnew '91, Richard C. Kraemer Term Professor of Business, and the Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance executive faculty director credited William & Mary's commitment to experiential learning for fostering initiatives like the Women's Stock Pitch.

"William & Mary is the only place to go if you want to go into finance. This is a school where we value creative thinkers and collaborative people," Agnew said. "The key to our ongoing success, as evidenced by our strong performance in recent finance surveys featured in the Wall Street Journal, lies in our remarkable alumni network. They are people who come back to share their expertise with current students. You get such a supportive community when you come here."

Matthew Brady Siano, Esq. '96, Managing Director-Emeritus at Two Sigma, adjunct faculty member at the Mason School, and Board Member of the Raymond A. Mason School of Business Foundation, has been involved with the Women's Stock Pitch since its inception over eight years ago.

In his initial years as an adjunct professor, Siano said he saw too many female students pull out of finance because they didn't think they could "make it" on Wall Street. Despite trying to convince them otherwise, Siano said these students struggle to envision themselves finding their place in America's financial capital. He explained that he equally understood, as a Foundation Board member, that in order for the Mason School to thrive, it needed to work to place more of its female graduates on Wall Street and into finance more broadly.

"I made it my mission to try to find a way to encourage more of our female graduates and finance majors to recognize that Wall Street is a place for them and that they could do well there and succeed in that environment," Siano said. "I felt the stock pitch competition was a great way for them - and for women from other universities - to meet each other and to see that they can all do this."

Lisa Petrelli, the opening keynote speaker and head of global markets for Canada at UBS, commended the university's role in propelling women forward in finance.

"There is momentum behind this, and it's carrying us forward. That's what's most exciting. It's a joy to see the groundswell of energy moving this forward. Enjoy these moments. There is a community around you, and it's global," Petrelli said. "This event is starting to take over the world."

As the eighth year of the Women's Stock Pitch concluded, it was evident that the event's impact reverberated far beyond the confines of Miller Hall. Each presentation and exchange illuminated a path forward for the many women bold enough to seize a career in finance. 

Watch the recap below: