AMHERST, Mass. – Amherst College rising junior Annie McCluskey, an infielder on the Mammoth's softball team, has a plan for her future, and it involves helping to break the mold in an industry currently dominated by men.
McCluskey, who aspires to be a leader in the asset management business, was chosen as one of 100 Girls Who Invest scholars this summer. Founded in 2015, Girls Who Invest has a goal of 30 by 30, focused on getting 30% of the world's investable capital managed by women by the year 2030.
Participants took part in a four-week summer intensive program at the University of Notre Dame, focused on educating and preparing women to enter the finance industry. McCluskey's summer also included a month-long investment internship at Select Equity Group in New York City.
Athletic Communications caught up with the Kinnelon, N.J. native over email to talk about the experience, her fellow participants, and the similarities between the fields of athletics and finance:
AC: How did you get interested in investing?
AM: I actually came to Amherst thinking I either wanted to do Neuroscience or Business. The majority of my family is in medicine and I thought I'd end up on a similar path, but I realized that I didn't want to wait 10+ years before starting my career. My brother had just graduated and was doing Investment Banking in NYC. It seemed relatively interesting and I've always liked working with numbers so I decided to give finance a shot. During freshman summer I ended up doing a program at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) that focused on Sales & Trading. I really liked working with the people and learning about how different areas of the business were interconnected. That summer I started talking to as many people as I could and started to learn what jobs I did and didn't like. What really drew me to the investing side was that I'd (eventually) be making my own decisions on where to invest the capital I raise and what to buy with it. I also really like the idea that I could still specialize in Healthcare within the industry as well.
AC: Why do you personally consider a program like Girls Who Invest to be important?
AM: This program really opened my eyes to the problems in the industry. Women account for less than 7% of the managers in the $15 trillion US mutual fund marketplace and that percentage decreases every year. I think women are an untapped resource in the industry. I'm sure I'm not the only one who sees a problem with the fact that 93% of one of the most lucrative industries in the entire world is run by men. Women are not only earning less, but they're not even getting their foot in the door. This program capitalizes on the fact that gender differences in investment approach and perspective prove advantageous in the investing world. There's been numerous studies done that show groups with more gender diversity have higher returns on sales, equity, and invested capital. This program offers asset management firms a way to get women in the door while offering women access to some of the best firms around the world.
AC: Are you a very competitive person, even off the softball field? Do you think that helps in a field like asset management?
AM: I think I am a very competitive person on and off the field, but growing up playing sports has also given me a team-oriented mindset. The combination of those two is really important in this industry. The competition is what drives you to find a way to succeed despite all of the challenges that this industry presents you with everyday, but you also need to be able to communicate and collaborate with your co-workers and see the big picture if you want the company to be successful.
AC: Do you see any similarities between being a collegiate athlete and being in the capital management industry?
AM: There are so many similarities between athletics and this industry. I think the finance world attracts a lot of athletes because it's a competitive and challenging environment, but I think athletes are particularly successful in this industry because it requires a particular mindset. Athletes are typically good under pressure, good at managing their time, and good at working with people. All three of those things are crucial in this industry. Athletes also have an inherent desire to overcome obstacles and reach their goals. This translates directly over to the finance world. You need to be persistent and evaluate why you might not have gotten what you wanted out of a certain deal or why you missed a huge opportunity that was right in front of you. You need to learn from the losses instead of focusing on the wins and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Most collegiate athletes have been doing that their entire lives so it's easy for them to make the switch from the field to a professional environment.
AC: What were your impressions of the fellow members of Girls Who Invest when you got there?
AM: Quite honestly I was pleasantly surprised by the girls in the program. The finance industry is not necessarily known for being full of kind-hearted personalities. People usually think this industry is full of money-hungry, cutthroat, selfish individuals. I was expecting to see some of that in the program. While that stereotype is certainly true in some cases, I experienced the complete opposite in this program. Seema Hingorani, the founder of GWI, spoke to us on the first day about the reputation of the industry and her desire to change that. She said that she made a conscious point of only taking candidates who had good morals and were kind people when she was sorting through the applications. To her credit, I did not meet a single person who I did not like in the program. All of the girls were extremely driven, interesting, and friendly people. I would also say it was also one of the most intelligent and diverse groups of people I have ever been in.
AC: How had they changed by the time you finished the program?
AM: I don't think many of them changed that much from the beginning to the end of the program. Some of the girls who were quiet at the beginning became the loudest in the bunch by the end, but other than that not much changed. I was really surprised that we got along so well. I can honestly say I will stay in contact with a lot of these people for the rest of my life.
AC: Do your teammates know much about your desire to work in investing? Do they ever joke about it with you?
AM: I think my teammates learned about my interest in finance last semester because I was in the process of interviewing with various firms while we were in season. Our team is really close, but I wouldn't say finance is a particularly fun topic for people who aren't interested in it. I would say some (if not all) were horrified by the fact that I was willingly applying to jobs that have 80-100 hours work weeks as a sophomore in college, but they've all been extremely supportive of it. They also find it very entertaining when I would show up to practice or class in a suit.
AC: Do you consider yourself a groundbreaker or a trailblazer?
AM: Yes. I think the fact that I'm going into an industry with so few women makes me a groundbreaker.
AC: What is a typical day like in the world of asset management?
AM: I don't think there is a typical day in this industry, which is what makes it fun. It really depends on what's going on in the world and what firm you're at. I'm at Select Equity Group, which is a $20bn long-only and long/short hedge fund. We don't read sell-side research so my day involves a lot of reading and modeling, but I also get to meet clients, sit in on meetings for different groups and discussions, and do some field research.
AC: What were some of the experiences that most stand out to you about this summer?
AM: The four weeks of training went by really fast, but my favorite part was definitely our site visits in Chicago. Every Friday we would go to various companies such as McDonald's, Bloomberg, and Nuveen. It was fun to meet with the management teams of different companies and apply everything we were learning in a real world setting. Everyone also stayed in Chicago together on the weekends. We went to comedy shows, a Kendrick and SZA concert, and got to do all kinds of cool tourist-y stuff. The best part of this program was the network it gave me. Now that I'm in New York, GWI has events at different companies almost every night of the week. Its great because we all go out to dinner after and can talk about what we've been doing, what the culture is like at different companies, etc. This program really goes above and beyond and has been a phenomenal experience.
About Girls Who Invest
Girls Who Invest ("GWI") is a non-profit organization founded in 2015 dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry. Their mission is to have 30% of the world's investable capital managed by women by 2030.
The asset management industry has been challenged by a lack of diversity on investment teams. And that's not good for anyone: investment firms, women, and most importantly, investors.
Girls Who Invest is committed to changing this imbalance. Their strategy is simple and practical. Investment firms say they do not see enough resumes from women, so they are creating a pipeline of talented and motivated young women who are prepared to succeed in the industry through an intensive educational program, a meaningful paid internship, and a robust on-going community.