Insights from the Undergraduate WIN conference

By: Katelyn Godoy
Women fill the conference space

By Becca Wang ’20 (SHA)

I first learned of Cornell’s annual Undergraduate Women in Investing (WIN) conference last year as a sophomore in the Hotel School, and I remember thinking what an amazing opportunity it was to learn more about the field of investing and related career paths. I attended the conference in 2017 and I have to say, it met all my expectations! I got to meet representatives from many companies as well as fellow students from 11 other universities and was inspired by what I learned. I did not participate in the stock pitch component last year but learned an incredible amount by watching pitching teams present and field questions from judges. I was determined to come back this year and be a part of the pitching team.

So it was that this year, the Cornell team arrived in Boston, very excited and definitely fatigued from preparing for our stock pitch presentation the night before. After a high-energy networking reception that gave us an initial opportunity to mingle with peers and industry representatives from sponsoring firms, the WIN Conference officially kicked off with Ramona Persaud, a portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments, as the dinner keynote speaker, who was truly inspiring. She shared with us her engineering background and the things she learned during the course of her career in finance. From her story, I learned how important it is to take initiative and find passion in what you do. She also talked about what it is like to work in the industry as a woman, and those stories, I believe, empowered many of us.

Students sitting around dinner tables
A Cornell student posing a question at the keynote dinner

The next day’s sessions included the stock pitch competition, a speed networking session and several panels. Our team took a top-down approach to stock selection—we went through the process of analyzing macro trends selecting a company we thought was well-positioned to achieve attractive returns, developing our investment thesis, and working with our assigned mentor from one of the sponsoring companies to craft our pitch. Our stock pick was Encompass Health Co (EHC), a healthcare facility stock we feel will benefit from the trend towards value-based care. Doing the research helped us learn about the nuances of healthcare companies while answering questions from judges gave us more insights on what to delve into and what seasoned investors truly care about.

Group of women posing for a photo in front of the Parker Center sign
Lakshmi Bhojraj (far left), founder of the WIN conferences, and Cornell students at the conference

It was also a great learning experience listening to other teams’ pitches—the pitches ranged from a children’s apparel company and food delivery app company, to a dollar-store brand. We were curious to hear how each team obtained their ideas in the first place, for example, if they went straight for a company they were personally interested in, or if they started from finding a macro trend and then went down to the micro level. The teams that performed well were able to clarify the business model and explain why they not only picked good companies but also good stocks. Our team spoke with the judges afterward and received valuable feedback about ways to structure the pitch and more things to look into.

Afterward, we participated in a round robin speed networking session with representatives from different companies. As we rotated through different tables, we chatted with representative from various firms and learned about their backgrounds. The structure of this session gave us exposure to not just the companies but also a snapshot of their culture.

Students sitting around tables networking
Students speaking with firm reps during the round robin speed networking session

As noon approached and the clock called for lunch, we dived into a lunch panel session with representatives from Capital Group. I found this panel, titled “A Career in Investment Management: Multiple Paths and Perspectives,” to be very interesting. One of the representatives shared the story of her background in art history and how the skills she picked up in finding value in art translated into investing. Another spoke about his entry into the firm through a mentorship program and the importance of giving back, now that he is established, through his involvement in non-profit organizations. As I see it, a big part of investing is about creating value to do good in society, especially with a growing interest in ESG investing nowadays. The students were all very engaged in the panel discussion—one student asked about the biggest investments the representatives had made in themselves, and another asked about the economic cycle and their views on the next recession.

Panel of women addressing the room
Representatives from sponsoring firms serving as panelists, with Professor Scott Stewart as the moderator

Having participated in the WIN Conference twice, I am truly grateful for this opportunity to meet with industry professionals and hear their stories. Working closely with my pitch team also created an environment where we learned from each other and bonded. I would recommend the WIN Conference to any woman interested in investing, as it has been such a valuable learning experience for me!

About Becca Wang ’20 (SHA)

Becca Wang

Becca Wang is currently a junior in the Hotel School, with minors in information science and real estate. Previously, she was a summer intern at Goldman Sachs in sales and trading and will be returning to their Special Situations Group next summer. Outside of the classroom, Becca is in the Mutual Investment Club of Cornell and has gone skydiving.