Student takeaways: Undergraduate Women in Investing Conference

By: Christin Li ’21 (Dyson)
Students present at the Women in Investing Conference in Boston

The Parker Center for Investment Research hosted the fourth annual Cornell Undergraduate Women in Investing Conference (WIN) in Boston this fall. The conference aims to educate undergraduate women about career options in research and investment management, as well as provide opportunities to network and recruit with sponsoring firms. This year, 71 undergraduate women from 17 schools and more than 30 representatives from 10 investment firms attended.

The conference was packed with engaging activities, including various panels on buy-side and sell-side roles; tips on successful recruiting; and networking opportunities through receptions, meals, and a round-robin networking session. As someone interested in exploring investment management, I found this conference a valuable experience where I learned more about investment management, met students from various schools and industry professionals, and gained insight from the experiences and advice of people in the industry.

Here are my main takeaways from the conference.

Be open to career possibilities

After listening to the stories of the professionals at the conference, my first takeaway was to always keep an open mind. Unlike what one might expect, several keynote speakers, panelists, and other professionals said they did not originally consider going into investment management. For example, the first keynote speaker, Nidhi Gupta, a sector leader and portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments, was originally an engineering major. Her entry into the investments industry seemed almost like a lucky coincidence: she began her career in financial services with a summer internship in investment banking at Goldman Sachs while she was an undergraduate and eventually discovered the world of investing. Other speakers even shared that the investments industry was the last place they thought they would end up in.

The speakers’ stories resonated with me deeply. As a student in my junior year in an undergraduate business school, I often feel pressure to know exactly what I want to do and where I want my career to be in the future. However, after hearing about the speakers’ experiences and the changes in their professional interests over time, I felt encouraged. Exploring and figuring out what roles best suit you—what motivates and challenges you—is a process that continues throughout your undergraduate and professional life. No one really knows where they will end up, so it is best to stay open to all possibilities.

Explore, learn, and find what motivates you

A key part of keeping an open mind involves actively exploring different career options and possibilities. WIN provided the opportunity for attendees to do some of that exploration. The round-robin speed-networking session, in particular, allowed attendees to speak with nine different firms and hear from people in different job positions within the investment management industry. After listening to many people describe their positions, I found it much easier to understand how each requires different types of skills and may be suitable for different types of individuals.

Here is my personal—and very generalized—guide to positions in investment management:

  • Investment research: Fits individuals who are curious and love researching and staying up-to-date on information.
  • Quantitative finance: Fits those with analytical minds who love numbers, coding, and quantitative tasks.
  • Sales and trading: Fits competitive individuals who love constant change.
  • Client services: Fits people who love communication, advising others, and relationship-building.

Even within these job positions there are more layers and diverse opportunities. For example, investment research includes equity research, but the industries and companies within that can vary. There is also fixed-income research, which also is made up of many different segments. Within sales and trading, there are different desks for different types of securities and products, and thus the experience each individual may have will also differ. Each person will feel challenged and motivated by different things. Exploration is important because it helps people figure out the best fit.

Stock pitching is important during recruiting

The stock pitching portion of the conference was particularly interesting to me, as it was my first time seeing an actual pitch. Ten teams from different schools were sorted into two rooms, with the teams each given fifteen minutes to recommend a specific company’s stock and to answer any questions from the judges. The judges’ most important feedback was that simplicity is key. Although analysts spend months and months researching a stock, a good stock pitch is one that boils all that research into simple and concise takeaways.

During recruiting interviews, especially for investment research roles, interviewers generally will require a stock pitch, as well. Recruiters are mainly looking for genuine and demonstrated interest in the position. Being aware of current news, having stock pitches with updated and thorough points, and managing a personal portfolio of stocks are all good things to do if one wants to go into investment research. However, each firm’s expectations for interviewees is different. While some speakers said it would be good to have maybe three or four stocks on hand to talk about, others explained that their firms would not require stock pitches from undergraduate applicants and, instead, would focus on training their interns.

A meaningful two days for undergraduate women

Overall, WIN truly allowed undergraduate female students to learn more about the various opportunities in investment management, gain encouragement and advice from professionals in the industry, and explore their own interests. I gained a much better understanding of what it may look like to work in the investment management industry, and a clearer vision of what might be most suitable for my interests and skills. I encourage other students, whether they have previous experience in investment management or are simply exploring, to take advantage of the various opportunities and programs the Parker Center has to offer.