The Columns

Williams Investment Society Appoints 2016 Directors

— by on December 8th, 2015

The Williams Investment Society has named its 2016 directors. Noah Henderson ’17 will serve as the Society’s executive director. Cody Solomon ’17 and Finn Barrett ’17 will serve as associate directors.

Henderson is a business administration and Chinese double major from Greenwich, Conn. Solomon is an accounting and business administration major from Atlanta, Ga. and Barrett is an accounting and business administration major from Bethlehem, Pa.

The Williams Investment Society (WIS) is a student-led co-curricular club that invests a portion of Washington and Lee University’s endowment in equity securities. Forty students manage a portfolio of approximately $10 million; each year, their goal is to beat the return rate of the S&P 500.

Students can join WIS as first-years, sophomores or juniors. Henderson joined as a first-year student; Solomon and Barrett joined as sophomores. The application process, which includes a written application as well as an in-person interview, is strenuous and less than half of all applicants earn a spot in the group.

“I didn’t really know much about investing but I was super interested in learning more about what drives value in businesses,” said Henderson. “I spent a lot of time on my application, learning how to qualitatively value companies.”

Directors are chosen by the society’s outgoing leadership team with oversight from the group’s faculty advisor, business administration professor Adam Schwartz, and the Williams School’s Crawford Family Dean Rob Straughan. To be considered for a leadership role, applicants must be members of WIS who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the society.

“The financial performance of the portfolio is important but just as important are the learning opportunities members receive,” said Straughan. “That’s the challenge when it comes to selecting the society’s executive directors. We want leaders who will recognize those learning opportunities and be good teachers as well as good investors.”

Directors are responsible for recruiting new members and ensuring that they get up to speed quickly. They also work closely to coordinate visits by corporate recruiters and guest speakers. Faculty and alumni frequently make guest presentations at meetings. Recent speakers have included Greg Johnson ’83, CEO of Franklin Templeton Investments; Mary Weber, Nathan Kelly ’14, and Jake Rudolph ’14 of Lincoln International; and Stephen Hostetler ’02, COO of Stress Testing, Recovery and Resolution Planning at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

WIS meets two to three times per week. Upon acceptance into the society, students are assigned to a specific industry group, such as energy, consumer staples, or consumer discretionary, and make regular buy/sell presentations accordingly.

“When you’re dealing with real money and trying to figure out what to do with $250,000, you realize just how in-depth your analysis has to be,” said Barrett. “You’ll be looking at an industry that’s always changing, so there’s always an opportunity to learn.”

Much of the research WIS students do for their presentations is qualitative, not quantitative. Each student is responsible for researching and reporting out on certain stocks within their sector. It’s about getting to know the company, its potential for growth, the risks and the rationales.

There’s a big payoff for students who join the Williams Investment Society—both in terms of landing internships and, later, jobs.

“The fact that members are capable of applying what they’ve learned in the classroom to real world investing holds real weight,” said Henderson.

Henderson will intern at Citi next summer, Solomon at JP Morgan and Barrett at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Employers know Williams Investment Society members are capable of hitting the ground running. But the bigger reward of membership is what students learn about themselves.

“Regardless of whether you do finance after college, you learn a lot of very transferrable skills. By putting together a series of one-hour presentations, you’ll learn to do research, work in teams, speak confidently and answer in-depth questions,” said Solomon.