Letter from 2017-2018 CEO Sabrina Yen
The 2017-18 academic year was one of many successes and new opportunities for Smart Woman Securities (SWS) at the University of Virginia (U.Va.). It has been an absolutely incredible experience to see the organization grow by connecting and attracting enthusiastic young women to gain financial knowledge and build professional confidence. Our main goals for the 2017-2018 year were to (1) spearhead the first case-study learning curriculum across SWS chapters, (2) develop comprehensive investing guidelines to manage our $24,000 real-money portfolio with discipline, and (3) emphasize the value of the SWS educational skill set and its applicability across various career paths.
We realize our organization is only as strong as the education and opportunities we provide for our members to develop their financial acumen and analytical toolkit. I am honored to have lead an organization with so many outstanding and enthusiastic individuals, and proud to see our women support each other to advance our mission.
This year, we successfully implemented two semesters of interactive, case-study style curriculum, elevating the quality and intensity of our research team education. Our Chief Research Officer, Pragati Rohra, and our Chief Investment Officer, Jackie Wang, collaborated to successfully develop a full semester case-study on Urban Outfitters. The focus of each seminar was on not only mastering technical valuation methods, but also building an analytical toolkit to adapt to various problems and situations. We are confident that Pragati and Jackie’s work will serve as a strong foundation for SWS chapters at other schools to advance, and the 66 SWS members whom completed our 2017-18’ probationary member educational seminar series will have access to exceptional learning material in the coming year.
Our weekly research team meetings were further enhanced by presentations from investment professionals, valuation workshops, and industry and internship panels. For example, we hosted new speakers with specialities in ETFs and Investment Management to teach our research analysts. We also enjoyed collaborating with the U.Va. Economics Clubs to host four professionals for a Women's Speaker Series in Fall 2017. Our speakers discussed their experience serving as a founding Board member of Alibaba Group, working on the Bernie Madoff case, and experience in the endowment management and financial technology industries. We recognize that the business landscape is constantly changing, just as our member’s professional interests will evolve throughout their four years at U.Va. We enjoyed the new exposure to such differing fields to complement the education within our organization and to show our members that the SWS education skill set can be applied across various industries. We received wonderful feedback from attendees and hope to continue the series as a means of motivating and encouraging our members to pursue business careers.
Our second main accomplishment this year was the successful development of our investment board investing guidelines. With a current unrealized portfolio return of 17.76% and realized return of 3.24%, we value the incredible experience of hands-on application of investing knowledge and company analysis. Throughout the year, our Chief Investment Officer, Jackie Wang, and our investment board members implemented various new strategies and metrics to improve our investing and portfolio management strategy. For example, we enforced criteria to identify stocks to buy using a four-factor approach to more effectively analyze the memos submitted by research analysts, as well as rules of risk management, including position sizing and sell discipline.
As our chapter approaches it’s first decade at U.Va., we strive to engage more deeply with our alumna base. Our Chief Operating Officer, Lexi Peck, led the outreach committee to create a centralized alumna database, accounting for our 256 strong membership. Her efforts will enable us to create a stronger community amongst members past and present, and we look forward to welcoming our alumna back in Fall 2018 for our first SWS Alumni Reunion event.
In addition to our most notable accomplishments described above, SWS held several valuable events throughout the year. We had the pleasure of hosting an unique talk with Professor Jingjing Li, a former Microsoft Scientist, and Lindsay Burton, founder of Kayo Conference Series, to compare and contrast their perspectives on women in business and market trends. We continued to have strong attendance at national SWS events, with three members traveling to New York City in Fall 2017 for the annual Conference and Summit at New York University and meeting up with SWS NYC alumna. We also sent one team and a second-year representative to William & Mary's Leadership Summit to represent our chapter in a stock pitch competition and network with other chapters and company representatives. Finally, our chapter sent one member of our leadership team, incoming Chief Investment Officer Lily Li, to the annual SWS National trip to Omaha to meet with Mr. Warren Buffett and visit several of his portfolio companies.
We would like to express our utmost gratitude and appreciation to our speakers, donors, the McIntire and U.Va. faculty and staff, SWS National, alumni, and our members for the continued support and dedication to our organization. Your generosity and willingness to help has been humbling. It is with sadness that I end my time serving in this organization which has made so much impact on me over four years. I would personally like to thank the enthusiastic and tireless members of our executive and investment boards for their work and support. I am also very grateful for the help of our senior analysts, the marketing and outreach committee members, and research team advisors. We look forward to the accomplishments of our new leadership team next year as our organization continues to grow.
Chief Executive Officer SWS at U.Va., 2017-2018