Lauren Thompson and Olga Bitel
William Blair wealth advisor Lauren Thompson (left) and Olga Bitel, a global strategist with the firm’s investment management team, during the Notre Dame Women’s Investing Summit.

William Blair was thrilled to support the University of Notre Dame annual Women’s Investing Summit, held February 11 on the school’s campus in South Bend, Indiana, featuring some of the top female executives in the financial investing industry.

The university instituted the summit four years ago in an effort to expand the number of women investors and leadership positions in the financial services industry.

Olga Bitel, a global strategist for William Blair’s Investment Management team, was the summit’s keynote speaker. William Blair wealth advisor and Notre Dame finance graduate Lauren Thompson moderated the discussion.

Bitel, who has nearly 20 years of experience analyzing macroeconomic developments to assess how global equity portfolios can be impacted, focused her remarks on investing which she said was all about growth.

While a growth company is typically described as one whose business generates earnings faster than its competitors or the overall economy, realizing that growth is constantly changing is key to being a successful investor, she said.

Investing Is All About Growth

“There is no value without growth,” Bitel told the crowd of finance students at the summit. “You really need to understand growth, the nature of growth, the sources of growth, and as importantly how the growth of one company compares to everyone else.”

Quality companies are often defined as those that push the frontier of growth, she added, noting they usually have a competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate. They also are more likely to keep growth up during an inflationary or higher interest rate environment.

“As much as we love to put emphasis on the interest rates, the long-term discount factor, and the true-weighted average cost of capital—these are all academic concepts,” Bitel said. “You really need to understand growth … that’s really the focus.”

In sharing her views on investing, Bitel said it is much more than identifying the right trend; it’s about translating that into a company’s specifics.

Take today’s electrical vehicle market as an example. Not surprising, EV manufacturer Tesla is seeing huge growth as consumers migrate away from gas-powered cars to electric. But not as obvious is that traditional oil-and-gas companies are among those that will likely benefit from EV adoption, said Bitel.

She cited a novel battery-swapping idea from a small Chinese company, NIO, that changes the field. Users drive into a swapping station to get a fresh battery pack in about the time it takes to fill up a tank of gas. Intrigued with the idea, Shell and other oil companies around the world are teaming up with NIO. 

“It goes back to the global nature of what we do and the interconnectedness of growth and companies and the ecosystems that they build.”

Take a Holistic Approach

Bitel encouraged the students to take a holistic approach to investing, having tentacles and pulses far and wide. That includes building skills outside finance by pursuing different areas of interest, whether biology, history, art, and so on.

“Nothing is too tangential for the kinds of things that you’ll be thinking about as investors even if it seems a little out of scope today,” she added.