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Polar Investment Club hosts endowment Q&A

November 18, 2022

Editor’s note 11/18/22 at 5:53 p.m. EDT: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that this event was hosted solely by the Polar Investment Club. The article has been updated to reflect the two groups who hosted the event. 11/19/22 at 1:20 p.m. EDT: A previous version of this article mischaracterized Brown’s experience at the investments office this summer. The article has been reflected to clarify her experience. 

Kresge Auditorium, usually filled with raucous laughter from comedy shows or the soft melodies of acapella performances, was instead brimming with advice on financial careers and details on the Bowdoin endowment on Monday. The event, a panel with the Bowdoin investment office, was hosted by the Polar Investment Club and Smart Woman Securities to give students unique insight into the inner workings of the College’s fund management.

Smart Woman Securities Head Jamie Brown ’23 said the two clubs hosted this event to clarify misconceptions that students may have about the endowment and how financial portfolios are handled by the investment office.

“[We] wanted to create a forum where students can come and ask a lot of these questions that we are hearing our friends throw around and give the endowment an opportunity to clear up this negative reputation that it has,” Brown said. “I feel like the endowment sometimes gets this negative reputation as a big pot of money that is [being] invest[ed] in all these horrible things, when in reality … the reason why [Bowdoin] fund[s] forty percent of operating costs and a lot of financial aid is because of the endowment. Without [the endowment], none of us would be here.”

Brown said that it is hard to increase transparency surrounding endowments because fund managers prefer to not publicly share the specifics of their investments.

“[Endowments] don’t invest in specific stocks or names—[they] invest in fund managers. Fund managers aren’t always telling [the public] what names they invest in because it’s their strategy and their bread and butter, and they want to have some secrecy to an extent,” Brown said. “You don’t want all the other endowments knowing what you’re doing because you want to get the greatest return for your college, so you can have the largest endowment to fund the school.”

Brown was able to have conversations and learn more about endowments’ investment portfolios as an intern at the Bowdoin investment office over the summer, and she reflected that the College is intentional about investing in environmentally friendly and socially responsible managers. Managers maintain environmental, social and governance principles that are released to the public and are commonly used by investors in determining where to invest their money.

“[The public] know[s] what fund managers are investing in based on their stated values,” Brown said. “Bowdoin isn’t going to invest in anything that will hurt communities or the environment because that is a bad investment from an investor’s perspective and from a moral perspective.”

At the Q&A, the panelists talked about a typical day in the investment office and focused much of the conversation on tips for students heading into investment or other financial careers.

Bowdoin Investment Associate Emily Shiang noted that the Bowdoin student body and the investment office do not interact much. However, she hopes that their interaction will increase in the future.

“I am always happy to interact with students and mentor students,” Shiang said. “Internships with the investment office are a nice way to connect with students, and they are also a nice pathway into finance.”

Shiang declined to comment on the transparency between the investment office and the Bowdoin student body.

Attendee Ulemj Munkhtur ’26 thought the panel was a helpful introduction to careers in endowment management.

“I liked how the panel gave specific numbers on how much their endowment increased and how much goes into the operating budget,” Munkhtur said. “It gives us a rough estimate of how Bowdoin manages their money and their resources.”

In the future, the Polar Investment Club and Smart Woman Securities hope to promote interaction between the Endowment Office and students through internships with the Office and a Career Exploration and Development program for first years and sophomores without experience in finance. The program will bring students to New York, N.Y., over spring break to interact with fund and asset management firms.

“I do think the investment office is doing a lot to get students more involved in the endowment,” Brown said.


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