The New Wolf of Wall Street

Jenna Goldman '18

“As future attorneys, we must know the language of finance in order to effectively interface with clients,” says Allie Hemmings ‘18, who recently took over as Chief Investment Officer of the only student run investment organization at an American law school. Rivanna Investments began in 2010 with $100,000 of seed money from alumni and in the seven years since has grown to $160,000.

Photo courtesy of Rihanna Investments

Photo courtesy of Rihanna Investments

Despite the impressive gains, the purpose of the organization is focused on education, not risk. Its stated mission is “to promote opportunities for UVa law students to learn about financial concepts, through programming and speakers series, before entering the business world as attorneys.”

“We want to make this club accessible,” says Hemmings. “Our goal is to get everyone active in coming to meetings, even if they are coming in with zero knowledge about finance, to learn enough throughout the year to be able to give their own stock pitch by spring.” 

The organization’s investment strategy is to follow the S&P 500 Index and limits all stock pitches to S&P 500 companies. Throughout the year, students will learn about companies from the ground up in preparation for a stock pitch to the ten 2Ls and 3Ls who make up the executive committee. The executive committee then votes on which stocks to add to the organization’s portfolio. The current portfolio holds stock in companies like Apple, Boeing, Chipotle and Netflix.  

Rivanna’s emphasis on education is what initially drew Hemmings in as a member in the fall of her 1L year.  

Though she graduated with a B.A. in economics from Reed College and wrote her senior thesis on the economics of parking in Portland, Oregon Hemmings said she had to teach herself finance on the fly when she started her job in equity research. 

“I studied economics, so I understood the broader concepts, but when it came down to key words and the practical, day-to-day finance, I had to play catch-up.” Hemmings recalls, “There would be days where I would have a textbook open next to my computer, and an assignment due to my boss in an hour. I loved it, but I definitely would have benefited from the skills I learned through Rivanna at that time.” 

Adding to the difficulty of the job was that, despite her firm’s location on the West Coast, it operated on New York hours so she would arrive at work at 4:30 a.m. and leave at 3:30 p.m. 

But the most disarming aspect of starting her job, Hemmings recounts, was the glaring absence of women in her office. “Of the twelve researchers, only two of us were women. It was always disheartening to feel so outnumbered at work.” 

That’s one reason why Hemmings is looking forward to her term as Chief Investment Officer: She will be the first woman to hold the position in the organization’s history. 

“The financial field is still intensely male-dominated, and I think there are lots of reasons for that. Two of which, I believe, are the lack of accessibility to the field and the lack of approachability. If you don’t know anything about investing and you don’t see anyone you can identify with, of course you will be more reluctant to join both the organization and the field.” She says jokingly, “I mean, have you seen Wolf of Wall Street?” 

As Chief Investment Officer, Hemmings will oversee the active portfolio, teach educational programming, and facilitate the speakers series and stock pitching along with her board. “I feel fortunate to work with a board of incredibly talented and passionate people.” This year’s board also has a record-breaking number of women and students of color serving in positions, Hemmings notes.

“In the past I think students have seen us as serving a very niche interest, but I want to get the message across that finance is for everyone. It can sound very serious when you hear the term ‘investment management,’ but it’s a very fun group of members. They have a good time and we work hard to make these concepts approachable.” 

What Hemmings finds most exciting about the organization is the opportunity to learn about different industries. “My first pitch was for a cyber-security software company and my second pitch was for Ulta, which required a lot of research into makeup marketing dynamics.” 

Hemmings looks forward to focusing on renewable energy financing at Norton Rose Fulbright in the Project Finance and Power group in Washington, D.C., after graduation. 

 Rivanna Investments meets every Friday at noon, location to be announced in the weekly SBA email. Hemmings and Max Hare will be co-teaching a lesson on financial statements and valuation methods this week. Everyone is welcome.