This International Women’s Day we all need and deserve some upbeat, inspiring, and enriching stories. After all, a lot has happened since 8 March 2020.
My 2021 research paper “Hear Me Roar,” released today, contains 58 investing success stories from smart women around the world.
Women don’t tend to brag about making money, but they do in this report, and women and their daughters can learn so much from them. In honor of today’s celebration, I’ll share five of the most compelling accomplishments.
Jessica Wu, Associate, HFT Investment Management, Shanghai
“I grew up in Chengdu, Sichuan. My life took a big turn during my first year in college when I won first place in a national performance competition and became an actress. The life was exciting and challenging. I performed in a movie and other acting parts during my college years while completing my degree. I was on a fast track of my career as a young actress. It was a glamorous job and with good pay, however, deep down I knew the career didn’t satisfy my curiosity and intellectual need. I wanted to learn more.
“I decided to leave the industry and went to the UK to become a master’s student studying management at the University of Glasgow. Changing careers from entertainment to finance, I was keen to go for the toughest and most recognized exam in this industry, which is why I chose the CFA program and so far have completed Level II. I knew that as a candidate with a non-traditional background, the most important thing was going to be my desire and willingness to constantly learn, and the hard work to back it up.
“My passion in asset management grew as I observed how China’s economic growth is creating institutional investors — sovereign wealth funds, insurers, pension funds, and endowments — which are not only growing in size, but also looking for more professional management for their assets. The range of products has evolved too, and more money is going into equity, fixed income, balanced funds, and alternatives, as well as exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
“My best investment success? In early 2020 I invested in Pinduoduo Inc. (PDD.US) — a Chinese e-commerce platform — and so far my rate of return has been 264%! With $215 billion gross merchandise volume — essentially the total amount of goods sold on its platform — Pinduoduo has a long runway for growth still ahead in this huge and fast-growing market.”
Bishat Araya, Singer, Stockholm
“I was born in Gothenburg in the south of Sweden and lived with my single mom and my brother. We moved to Ethiopia, where my mom is from, for one year when I was seven. When I was 13, I wrote my first song and after performing it at my school’s graduation ceremony, with a great response, I knew for sure that I wanted to be a musician. I’ve worked in different countries: London in the UK, Germany, Los Angeles in the United States, and today Stockholm is once again my home.
“Typically artists and musicians are quite scattered about their finances, but this coronavirus crisis has taught me the importance of having savings. I realized I need to be disciplined about saving on a monthly basis and investing what I can, big or small. Luckily I had just done two big jobs and therefore had a little money to start off with. I talked to a friend of a friend and started reading up on the stock market, and at the end of March, right after that big dip, I started investing. I started using an app to get a feel for stock price movements and I have learned something about myself . . . I love trading!
“This market has been a wild ride — I’ve made lots of money in a short period of time on stocks like Volvo, Power Cell, Arise, Beyond Meat, and Bambuser. In just a few weeks I made 30% on Volvo and 50% on Bambuser — a Swedish start-up working with live video shopping technology — and doubled up on my EPR Properties stocks. My portfolio is up over 60%. I realize it’s not a regular market we’re dealing with and I am trying not to get too cocky — the market is a fickle lover.”
Ellen Roseman, Consumer Advocacy and Personal Finance Writer, Toronto
“I started investing with a female broker in the early 1990s. Then, in early 2008, I started an investment club. I’m very grateful to one woman in particular who presented to our group in 2011 on Constellation Software — an international provider of market-leading software and services to a number of industries, both in the public and private sectors.
“She told us that the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) was about to sell their stake in the company and it would be a good time to buy. I bought a small position at $110 per share, and over the years it just kept growing and growing. At least once or twice, I’ve sold half of my position, but it has been a stellar success in my portfolio. Today the company is trading at about $1,200 as of 28 March 2020, at about 20% below its historic highs.
“I normally like to own dividend-paying stocks — Constellation pays only a small dividend. But I’ve made an exception — the CEO seems to have a magic touch for finding good companies to buy. He no longer does analyst meetings.”
Elizabeth Holmenlund, CFA, Vice President, Capital Four Management, Copenhagen, Denmark
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a career, but thanks to some scholarships and grants from different foundations in Denmark as well as the generous government education support from the Danish state, I was able to move to London to study economics and management at the London School of Economics. When I started at the LSE, I had never even heard of investment banking, but while I was there I became fascinated with finance.
“After graduating I went to work for JP Morgan in London and stayed there for almost six years. This was the first time I was able to invest and manage my own money. I was always very aware of the need for diversification, and because my employment risk was with JP Morgan, I thought I should limit my personal investments in the company. As part of our compensation package we received stock options and many people would hang on to them as they vested gradually over time. To diversify my risk, my strategy was always to sell my stock as it vested on Day One of the trading window. This strategy is not specific to JP Morgan and, incidentally, it would have been a very good stock to own, but for me this was a pure risk-management strategy and it paid off very well. Another thing that worked for me was to convert all of my bonuses from pound sterling to US dollars. Since all my earnings were in pounds but my investments were in US dollars, this was a way to short pounds as a hedge and also match the currency of my investment assets with the currency of my day-to-day liabilities.
“Outside of my JP Morgan stock strategies, I have to say I am very boring when it comes to investing my own money. I don’t want a complex approach and I don’t want to pay management fees if I can avoid it. I think this is a result of having studied to become a CFA charterholder and having worked for so many years in the investment industry. I know that it is almost impossible to beat the market and I just don’t think I’m smarter than the rest of the market. So why try? Also, I look at investments all day for my job and I don’t want to do that in my free time as well! I invest exclusively in the MSCI World ETF and in 2016 — my best year— it had a return of +30%.”
Ng Shin Ein, Co-Founder, Gryphus Capital, Singapore
“I was born in Singapore and my younger sister and I were brought up in a traditional Asian family. My grandparents’ generation treated boys and girls quite differently: Boys were groomed to take over the family business and if there was only enough money for one education, it would be the son’s. Fortunately my parent’s generation was more progressive and my sister and I were given important opportunities to learn. We weren’t formally taught about finance, but my father was a businessman who was very much into long-term value investing. Rather than giving us gifts or money to reward us for good grades, he would give us equity stocks. I made my first investment at age 13 in a listed company in Singapore called Overseas Union Trust (now delisted). This was done by proxy as my dad held the share certificates, but I made the decision about when to sell. I held on to it for about a year and a half and in retrospect sold too early because the value was realized when they privatized.
“For me, investing isn’t just about returns. It is about the excitement of uncovering a good founder and a team with potential. Business and investing bring that extra spark to my life, and I absolutely love it. My best investment ever was in a China-focused start-up which became a unicorn: Lalamove, a last mile logistics company that operates in more than 80 cities in China. I supported them very early on, and today its valuation has exceeded a couple of billion dollars.
“The founder of Lalamove, Shing Chow, came from a poor family in Hong Kong but he had tremendous tenacity and an out-of-the-box way of thinking. He quit Bain after university to become a professional poker player and made millions over seven years. I loved his spirit and how determined he was! You need to feel excited about the business and the founders. I look for companies that will be disruptive and provide a better solution to existing problems.”
So to mark International Women’s Day 2021, here’s a toast to women who boast. And to millions more money-making women everywhere in 2021 and beyond!
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