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Event Recaps | Dec 30, 2019 |

Diversity & Responsible Investing in Focus at Annual Project Punch Card Conference

In the words of Warren Buffett, his punch card investment philosophy is “a ticket with only twenty slots in it so that you had twenty punches – representing all the investments that you got to make in a lifetime.”

The “Oracle of Omaha” said under those rules, investors would think carefully about what they did and ultimately do much better.

In its 2nd annual conference held at the Gabelli School, Project Punch Card, a not-for-profit organization that takes its name from Buffett’s investment philosophy, gathered portfolio managers, investment advisors, analysts, allocators, and students to “punch in” together on December 11th. The organization supports underrepresented groups in the investment industry and a long-term investment orientation among business students.

The Project Punch Card Conference, sponsored by Fordham’s Gabelli Center for Global Security Analysis, featured rare keynote addresses from Cliff Asness, founder of AQR Capital Management; Eileen Murray, co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates; and James Dinan, founder of York Capital Management.

They joined a roster of industry leaders representing close to $1 trillion in assets under management, including Michael Mauboussin, director of research at BlueMountain Capital; Victor Khosla, founder of SVP Global; Robert Koenigsberger, founder of Gramercy Funds; Rupal Bhansali, chief investment officer of international and global equities at Ariel Investments; Andrew Herenstein, founder and managing principal of Monarch Alternative Capital; Michael Oliver Weinberg, managing director and head of hedge funds and alternative alpha at APG; Pat Dorsey, founder of Dorsey Asset Management; and Barbara Ann Bernard, founder of Wincrest Capital.

Multiple Leaders, One Mission

Project Punch Card founders and conference speakers all have the same goal in mind: to foster long-term investment approach among women and minority students, said James Kelly, Gabelli Center for Global Security Analysis director.

“The purpose of Project Punch Card is very complementary to our mission here at Fordham.”

This year, the panelists spoke in-depth about the importance of diversity, inclusion and responsible investing and also offered strategies in value investing.

Murray, of Bridgewater Associates, recalled growing up in a very diverse and inclusive New York City neighborhood and told the audience because of her upbringing, she was surprised about the lack of diversity in the investing/financial services industry.

“When I became controller (at Morgan Stanley), someone said to me, ‘wow, you’re the only woman in leadership.,” said Murray. “I said, ‘that’s not good. We have to change that.’”

To achieve that goal, throughout her career in various leadership roles on Wall Street, she worked with mentors and senior executives to approach unconscious biases and inclusivity. She even made it her mission to help expand upon the .5 percent population of senior-level female leaders at Bridgewater.

“It’s been a lifelong passion of mine to promote diversity and open their [employees’] minds a bit more than they did before they walked through the door,” said Murray.

Responsible Investing

In a later panel, Michael Oliver Weinberg of the Dutch pension fund APG, who is also a founder and board member of Project Punch Card, shared four key attributes of investment he takes into consideration: Return, risk, cost, and SRI – Socially Responsible Investing.

SRI, Weinberg explained, is investing in organizations that act responsibly and operate their business while positively impacting the environment.

Investors can also look for responsible businesses by categorizing them based on Socio-economic Development Initiatives (social and economic investments that strengthen local governments) and their contributions to the United Nation’s Strategic Developmental Goals (SDGs). Policies on responsible investing are slowly coming to the U.S., according to Weinberg, but they follow in the footsteps of Dutch and European banks who currently are the front-runners.

Similar to the Punch Card philosophy, Weinberg shared his rationale for integrating responsible investing into portfolios.

“Optimize your profitability, take some money, put it aside, and do good irrespective of that,” said Weinberg.

Responsible investing is more than philosophy for Weinberg. His role in supporting minorities and women ties into Buffet’s 20-slot concept—smart investments should be thoughtful and apply to all areas of life and business.

“Wall Street is too homogenous,” Weinberg said. “We need to involve those groups who are underrepresented.”

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