Cornell Undergraduate WIN: Cultivating Winning Female Investors
Laurel Prime '22 (Dyson) shares her experience from the 6th Annual Undergraduate Women in Investing Conference.
From September 29th-October 1st, I had the distinct honor of representing Cornell University in our four-person undergraduate stock pitch team for the 6th Annual (and 2nd virtual) Undergraduate Women in Investing (WIN) Conference. This year, Johnson’s Parker Center for Investment Research hosted almost 70 undergraduate women participants from 20 schools, representing institutions like Williams College, Columbia, and Stanford.
During Wednesday and Thursday’s 1.5-hour speed networking sessions, conference participants had the opportunity to rotate between breakout rooms to meet with 30+ representatives hailing from 11 top-tier investment firms from across the country, hear diverse perspectives on investment careers, and ask questions. The professionals encouraged us to start our own portfolios, read Buffett’s letters, and ask thoughtful questions early and often.
WIN commenced with opening remarks from WIN’s Founder and the Parker Center’s Executive Director, Lakshmi Bhojraj, and AQR Capital. Afterwards, we heard from a Capital Group keynote panel. Lee Chu, a Capital Group Investment Analyst, urged us to practice pitches as much as possible, because “the first pitch is harder than the 10th or 100th.”
For the “Undergraduate Stock Pitch Challenge” component, 11 teams competed to showcase their stock-picking skills in front of a panel of distinguished judges drawn from sponsoring firms. Two weeks in advance of this occasion, my three teammates, Melissa Gao (Dyson ’23), Mumba Mulenga (A&S ’23), Ruby Li (Dyson ’23), and I started to craft our pitch under the guidance of Johnson’s career advisor and seasoned investment professional, Kerstin Ramstrom (MBA ’01), who graciously provided an abundance of pointed feedback and insight on best practices.
Our team decided to pitch WIX as a recommended buy. In preparation for this pitch, we conducted extensive research on the website-building industry and WIX, defined market metrics, and identified WIX’s catalysts for growth as well as potential risks and mitigants. From the quantitative side, we conducted a valuation analysis and came up with an implied share price. After completing these steps, we synthesized the resulting insights to create our final investment thesis.
On Day 1 of the stock pitch showcase, after a night of final touches/rehearsals (and simultaneous studying for a prelim!), Melissa, Mumba, Ruby, and I took the virtual stage to pitch WIX as a recommended buy. Following judges’ deliberation, our Cornell team was announced as a second-place winner, following Williams College, on Day 1. On Day 2, Columbia and Carnegie Mellon were announced as first and second place winners respectively. The judges congratulated all contenders and provided aggregated feedback on what differentiated the winning teams: leveraging a data-driven approach when evaluating what the business can become, considering consumer input, and demonstrating creativity and conviction in the pitch.
Everyone learned a lot from hearing judges’ feedback and engaging in the process of crafting pitches and investment theses. It was clear from the animated interactions in the virtual conference rooms, that WIN had inspired an audience of winning future female investors.
On a personal note, I’m so grateful and honored to have represented Cornell University alongside my talented teammates at this year’s Undergraduate WIN conference. Thanks to WIN, I was able to cultivate meaningful relationships with our team’s advisor, industry leaders in investment management, and firm representatives. In terms of big picture career plans, constructing financial models, building a robust understanding of corporate strategy, and demonstrating conviction in selling my ideas are valuable skills that I can actively leverage not only in investment management but also in any business or tech role that I might choose to pursue.
Finally, being as competitive as I am, achieving a stock pitch win was the perfect cherry on top.