Women Gain Investing Knowledge and Insights at the Undergraduate WIN Conference
A Q&A with Joanne Hu ’24 about the Undergraduate Women In Investing Conference
The Cornell Undergraduate Women in Investing (WIN) Conference, hosted by the Parker Center for Investment Research at Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, took place at the Westin New York at Times Square in New York City on September 29-30. This year’s event welcomed 55 students from 17 schools and around 30 representatives from 10 investment firms. Joanne Hu ’24, a junior at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, where she is a double major in Communication and Information Science, shares her experience at the conference.
How did you first hear about the conference and why did you decide to participate?
Hu: I’m a transfer student from William & Mary and transferred to Cornell after my freshman year. During my time at William & Mary, I was in the Women in Business and Smart Women Securities clubs, and that’s where I learned about the conference. I attended the WIN Conference virtually last year, and I reapplied this year after receiving information about it from the conference organizers. When I participated in the conference last year, I knew very little about investment management, so the knowledge I got out of it was minimal. But after a year of learning about finance at Cornell, I gained more understanding of the different branches in this space, and I felt I could get much more out of the conference this year. I also wanted to experience the in-person version, so I decided to reapply to the conference and luckily got in.
Did you have any previous awareness, coursework, or experience with investing prior to attending the conference?
Hu: My freshman year, I was on the research team in Smart Women Securities at William & Mary and presented one stock pitch each semester. Also, I’ll be going into sales and trading next summer, and while recruiting for it I learned a lot about the financial market and about different products — bonds, equity, derivatives, etc. This helped me develop my basic knowledge of investing and understand what a portfolio could be comprised of, along with how people come up with investing insights.
What sparked your interest in the field?
Hu: I like to follow the financial markets. They are constantly changing, and I am excited to keep up with the latest news and apply my understanding to my work. The complexity of the markets goes beyond financial and economic knowledge; I need to understand human behaviors and large-scale societal environments to analyze how current events would impact the market and businesses. That’s exactly what I am passionate about, given that I have interests in diverse fields such as psychology, sociology, and international relations. In this field, I also need to learn things quickly, know how to communicate with clients, and develop investing insights. And I appreciate a career that can bring me a comprehensive skill set like this.
Was there a session you found most useful at the conference?
Hu: The networking sessions. Due to COVID, I hardly had any in-person networking opportunities before this, and it felt so different talking to someone in person versus online. When talking to someone face-to-face, you can feel their vibe and learn what people are like in the industry.
During the networking session, I asked some questions about the fluctuations and uncertainty in the market today, and I heard interesting answers from company representatives. I remember talking to one company representative about people having fears of a recession and inflation, and about the Fed’s hawkish moves these days. I asked the representative if this situation impacted their portfolio and if they had any reactions to these events. The representative replied, “I don’t think these small fluctuations in the short term would interfere with my investing strategy, because we focus more on value investing and investing in the long term. If a business were solid, its internal value wouldn’t be significantly dragged down by small fluctuations in the market. In the long run, they would ultimately hit their target because the internal drivers of their values wouldn’t have changed.”
I honestly didn’t expect this answer, and I realized that I had been mostly learning about investing from a short-term sales and trading perspective. This answer gave me a different view of investing and how people in different areas approach the same thing with different mindsets.
What did you learn from the speakers that you think would help you in the future?
Hu: As the conference is about women in investing, the panel speakers discussed this. One speaker mentioned that sometimes, you might struggle with imposter syndrome as a woman in the industry, particularly since women are so underrepresented, and you need to believe in your decisions. This is very enlightening, as I often struggle with developing a strong belief in my thoughts. When researching industries, I always come up with many ideas, but then I usually start to question if my ideas are too naïve. In the investing field, where success often comes from holding onto unpopular opinions, my uncertainty in myself can hold me back. The conference was enlightening, as the speakers talked about combating imposter syndrome and building confidence in yourself. The representatives said it’s okay to make mistakes and that people in the industry make mistakes all the time. I just need to believe in my ideas; if I make a mistake, I should just let it go and avoid making the same mistake the next time.
Did the conference influence your future career direction? And if so, how?
Hu: It gave me a sense of what long-term investing looks like. Prior to the conference, I didn’t realize how people in different areas can have different investing mindsets. After hearing from people in investment management, I’ve come to understand that some people might focus on value investing and look at intrinsic value, and others rely on market sentiment. This has gotten me thinking about which area of finance would fit my personality the best, and I’ll focus on exploring this in the future.
What was the most rewarding part of the experience?
Hu: The first rewarding part was learning about how investors think and make decisions. During the Q&A portion of the luncheon on the second day, many questions were about investing itself vs. company-specific. One student asked, “If your portfolio is not doing well, what would be your reflection process, and how do you summarize your takeaways and apply them to your next decision-making process?” The panelist suggested that you need to reflect not only on what you did wrong, but also what you did well. That’s something I never really thought about before. I liked to reflect on past mistakes, but I didn’t realize the importance of continuing to do what I was doing right.
The company representatives also talked about their reflection process while making investing decisions. One representative reflected on how she spent too much time on one company; it took up 1 percent of the portfolio, but she used 40 percent of her time thinking about whether this company was good. Hearing about these specifics was very helpful to understand a little bit about how investors work and how they think.
The second rewarding part was meeting the other student attendees. My roommate was a senior from the ILR School at Cornell, and she was great. When I felt insecure about whether I networked well with people during the conference, she reassured me and told me I was doing great. Even though we only roomed for one night, I learned so much from her, both from her past experiences and her attitude toward the conference. It was also great meeting women with similar interests in business from Cornell and the other schools. This peer group is wonderful because you get to exchange information and insights with each other and grow your own business/investing mindset. I’ve always been seeking a community like this.
Would you recommend this event to other students interested in the investing field?
Hu: Yes, definitely. I posted some pictures of the conference on my social media, and some friends asked me what I was doing and what the conference experience was like. I recommended this conference to those who asked me, as I think it’s an excellent place for students to learn about investing, talk to people in the industry, and meet peers with similar interests.
The conference has a dual objective of educating undergraduate women about career options in research, investment management, and related roles where they are vastly underrepresented, and facilitating their recruiting and networking opportunities with sponsoring firms. Students will also have the opportunity to present an investment idea at the event and hear feedback from professionals in the field. This year’s platinum level sponsors were AQR Capital Management, Capital Group, and Fidelity Investments. Executive level sponsors were Alger, Dimensional Fund Advisors, Dodge & Cox, Harris Associates, Longitude Capital, Polen Capital, and T. Rowe Price.