Sarah Beth Hampton, a junior from Chapel Hill, N.C., has been elected executive director of the Williams Investment Society (WIS) at Washington and Lee University. Based in W&L's Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, WIS is a student-run organization that manages about $1.9 million of Washington and Lee's endowment in equity securities.
Hampton will succeed the current executive director of WIS, senior David Fishman, at the end of the calendar year. Fishman is a double major in accounting and business administration and economics from Westfield, N.J., and will work in equity research at Goldman Sachs after graduating from W&L.
Hampton, a business administration and economics double major, and will be an intern at J.P. Morgan in sales and trading this summer. She is the society's first female executive and has been a member since her first year. "That's longer than a lot of people," said Hampton, "and WIS has become very much a part of my experience at Washington and Lee. It's always in my class schedule, and I always go to meetings twice a week. For me to now lead WIS is exciting.
"I knew I was interested in finance during my senior year in high school. You obviously need to have a good grasp of math and numbers, but finance is also about communicating with people, working with a group, and being able to come up with an original idea and follow through on it."
When she first joined WIS, Hampton found it daunting and had a hard time understanding the financial jargon. So she plans to train new members at the beginning of the semester as a group, so they can ask questions separately from regular WIS meetings to bring them up to speed.
"Several outstanding candidates were considered to replace David, and I'm thrilled the outgoing directors selected Sarah Beth," said Adam Schwartz, the Lawrence Term Professor of Business Administration. "From the very beginning, she has always been one of our stars. I know she will do a great job sharing her knowledge and experience with the new members." Schwartz advises WIS along with Robert Culpepper, a 1966 graduate of W&L and a 1969 graduate of the W&L Law School, who is a visiting professor of business administration, and John Jensen III, a 2001 graduate of W&L who is assistant dean of the Williams School.
"Like all WIS members, both David and Sarah Beth initially benefited from the knowledge of the older members as well as from our network of alumni mentors," Schwartz continued. "David has done a great job leading the group this year. More importantly than the outstanding returns, he has helped the new members learn how we manage the part of the endowment trusted to the group."
WIS has three directors—the executive director and two associate directors. Members are divided into nine industry groups designed to mirror the S&P 500: consumer staples; basic materials; consumer discretionary; energy; financials; health care; industrials; technology; and utilities/telecom.
The groups range from three to five students apiece. Once a semester, each industry head defends their research on an equity that the group thinks is worth buying or selling. The 10 voting members of WIS then decide which shares to hold, buy or sell.
"The executive director does not belong to an industry group," explained Fishman, "But he or she needs to be able to do a lot of valuation and understand the modeling. When the heads of the industry groups give their presentations, it's important to make sure they have made a good choice and that the valuations are properly modeled."
For the past 12 months, from the third quarter of 2012 to the third quarter of 2013, WIS returned approximately 23.85 percent compared to the S&P 500's 19.79 percent, continuing its history of realizing returns in excess of the S&P 500 since its inception in 1998.
"That's pretty phenomenal for a group of students with limited resources, time and experience," said Fishman.
Other duties of the executive director include scheduling, inviting speakers, and generally making sure that everything runs smoothly. He or she also schedules interviews with students who apply to join the society, which is open to any W&L undergraduate.
"It all takes time," said Fishman, "and for me the most difficult part was finding out how hard it is to stick to a concrete schedule. But WIS is a great learning experience for a lot of students and a great complement to a liberal arts education."