Investing at Darden

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Charlottesville is the headquarters of the CFA Institute as well as home to a few prominent investment offices such as Investure, whose leadership often volunteer their time to co-lead case discussions with Darden faculty. Once a year, however, Charlottesville takes on an even more prominent role for the global investment community when Darden hosts its annual University of Virginia Investing Conference (UVIC) and investors, policy-makers and the financial press descend on Charlottesville.

The event was kick started this year on November 14 with the second annual Darden @ Virginia Investing Challenge (DVIC) in which students from fifteen leading business schools (Carnegie Mellon, Chicago Booth, Columbia, Cornell, Darden, Duke, Emory, Kellogg, Notre Dame, NYU Stern, UCLA Anderson, UNC Keenan-Flagler, Vanderbilt, Wharton and Yale) participated in a stock pitch competition. After the first round, three schools moved on to the final round in which Columbia Business School won the event with a short pitch for RocketFuel (FUEL) and took home $3,000 for their effort. Darden Capital Management, Darden’s student-run $9 million investment fund in which I serve as a Senior Portfolio Manager, had organized and helped host DVIC. While I wasn’t a contestant in the stock pitch competition, it was a great opportunity to learn, share ideas and network with students and judges.

The rest of the day was dedicated to the Investing Conference. The first speaker was Jason Trennert who was the consummate strategist, wonderfully presenting various scenarios and getting the audience to think hard about what 2014 has in store. One takeaway that stuck with me – probably because we’re currently focused on LBOs in our corporate financing and economic history classes – was Trennert’s projection that 2014 would be the year of the activist investor and LBOs. Richard Chilton then spoke about the process of finding quality business models to invest in and the evening ended with a panel in which CIOs of various university endowments discussed the shift in the allocation of their assets, particularly the increased emphasis on private equity.

The next day started with a special session with Kyle Bass for the students in Rich Evans’ Investments course. Bass is a regular at UVIC and spoke to us about his views on various strategies ranging from macro investments in countries like Argentina to individual equity plays in General Motors stock. The next two hours were probably the best part of the conference for me personally because I had the privilege to host Joyce Chang, the Head of Emerging Markets and Global Credit Research at JP Morgan. I will be joining JP Morgan full-time after graduation and it was a pleasure to spend one-on-one time with a very senior member of the bank. After lunch, the conference wrapped up with an address by billionaire investor, Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks, and an energy panel that highlighted public and private investment opportunities to capitalize on the booming sector.

I’ve now attended the fifth and sixth annual UVIC conferences as a student at Darden. My first introduction to UVIC, however, was the fourth conference when my boss at the time, Vincent Reinhart (currently Morgan Stanley’s Chief U.S. Economist), spoke at the event. I have to admit I was jealous of Darden students when I witnessed the quality of speakers that descended on campus and learned about the tremendous freedom Darden Capital Management offered them to learn about investing. I’m thrilled that I’ve had this opportunity to be a part of the school and benefit from DCM, DVIC and UVIC.  

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