April 9, 2001

Ivy Investment Clubs Meet on Wall Street

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The Ivy League Investment Club Conference started, incidentally, as a joint venture between Cornell and Harvard universities.

High school friends Scott Belsky ’02 and Fan Wu, a junior at Harvard — now the presidents of their respective investment clubs — arranged the conference that would bring together delegates from each of the Ivy League universities to talk shop.

With investment firm Goldman Sachs leading the charge, the 56 delegates toured the trading floors of the New York Stock Exchange, heard from speakers across the industry and sat down with each other to compare ideas.

“I was realizing that a lot of what we do we didn’t know how to do it,” Belsky said. “There are all these clubs that are at different stages of involvement.”

For instance, he noted, while Cornell’s club members invest their own money, student investors at Dartmouth use part of the school’s endowment.

“I realized there’s a lot of potential for collaboration,” he said.

The delegates heard from Goldman Sachs’ team Friday morning, with workshops beginning at 6:45 a.m.

Rick Sherland ’77, who recently made the cover of Fortune magazine as “one of the smartest guys on Wall Street,” talked about picking stocks.

“You want to catch the big wave; you want to catch it early and just ride it out,” Sherlund said. “Generally you want to look at the rate of growth, and the confidence you have that a company can meet those growth rate expectations. What’s happened in the past is irrelevant; it’s what’s going to happen that’s important.”

Sherlund singled out Microsoft as an example of a big wave, noting, “You know it when you see it.”

The conference, Belsky pointed out, was receiving coverage from The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal because of timing — in the aftermath of the recent economic slowdown.

“It’s a positive note to a pretty sad current status,” he said.

“You can take advantage of the market, no matter where the economy is,” Charles Baldridge ’01 added.

Lisa Fontinelli, a vice president with Goldman Sachs, talked about the importance of disseminating information across the industry.

“This is about the quick and dirty,” she said. “We’re not in the ivory tower; we do try to make money here. This sort of flies in the face of what you think of this business.”

For that reason, the most important job an analyst has is asking managers the difficult questions and then listening hard to their answers, Fontinelli said.

Belsky contacted Joshua Benjamin ’99, a former president of Cornell’s Investment Club, who put him in touch with the people at Goldman Sachs.

“From Goldman’s standpoint, all of the delegates are qualified candidates; we used it partly as a recruitment tool,” said Benjamin, now a financial analyst in the equities division.

“We got about 95 percent right. I think next year, we’re going to have a little bit more break time. We’re going to focus more on specific portfolio examples. There’ll be more interaction,” Benjamin said.

Goldman Sachs wanted to be the sole sponsor of the conference, which included a panel discussion from recent Ivy League graduates now working with the company. Cornell also participated by offering discount accommodations at the Cornell Club.

“We’re requiring each investment club to bring at least two freshmen or sophomores. The definite goal is to meet every year,” Belsky said before the conference.

Goldman Sachs managing director Jack Kelly urged the delegates not to get too focused on “the business side of things.”

“College is a great time, really enjoy it. I think that at the end of the day, wherever you are, what you want to get out of it is that they thought you how to think,” he said. “If you completely believe the academics, you wouldn’t invest in anything.”

Joel Golovin ’01 noted that networking and career-building were a big part of the conference. “We have top management reps telling us from their life experiences. We can gain a lot from them, learn from their mistakes,” he said.

Archived article by Beth Herskovits