William Blair Hosts CFA Luncheon With Contrarian Investing the Focus

Monday, October 2, 2017

William Blair on September 22 hosted it 12th annual luncheon in Chicago to honor the firm's 157 members of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Society. Rupal Bhansali, Ariel Investments' chief investment officer of international and global equities, was the featured speaker and led a spirited discussion on contrarian investing.

Named "Global Contrarian" by Barron's magazine in 2015, Bhansali told the group that investors are often told that if they want high returns, they have to accept higher risk. If they want low risk, they have to expect low returns. Contrarian investors aim for both: high returns and low risk.

"It's about risk management not return management," Bhansali said. "Everyone thinks it's about picking the winners. It's about avoiding the losers."

In selecting quality investments, Bhansali focuses on factors like a company's value proposition, customer loyalty, multiple product applications, and potential price disrupters.

"Financial metrics are not a mark of quality. It is a mosaic," Bhansali said. "You have to do deep fundamental research, have a contrarian point of view, and be correct."

Today "cash" is one of the biggest contrarian ideas for both investors and asset allocators, she said.

"Cash has become a four-letter word—and debt is no longer a four-letter word," Bhansali said. But "cash" needs a broad definition, she added. One way to be in cash is to own carefully selected companies with a lot of cash on their balance sheets.

Honoring CFA charterholders

William Blair CEO John Ettelson welcomed Bhansali and Ariel Investments CEO John Rogers, a William Blair alumnus, to the luncheon.

The annual event honors the firm's employees who recently earned their CFA charter by passing a series of exams and agreeing to follow the society's high ethical standards for investment professionals. The firm's most recent CFA charterholders were applauded: Dan Finnegan, Derek Maleh, Yaoyao Wang.

"Your commitment to expand your investment knowledge and to follow the CFA society's high ethical standards is incredibly important to the firm," Ettelson told the group.

William Blair has a long-standing connection with the CFA Institute, a global association for investment professionals. Chris Vincent, head of William Blair Investment Management's fixed-income team, told the gathering that the relationship dates back roughly 60 years, when the firm began its tradition of serving on the CFA Chicago board.

CFA Chicago CEO Shannon Curley also joined the celebration.

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