Meet the Women Managers of SMIF

October 28, 2021
"Being a part of SMIF has challenged me in the best of ways, and has helped me gain confidence in my role as a woman entering the industry, where I hope to continue recruiting and mentoring other young females to enter and succeed."

In a 2019 analysis by Deloitte, the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial services firms was 21.9%, with a projection to grow to 31% by 2030. There is much work to be done, and the Robins School is committed to finding ways for students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives be given opportunities to ask questions and move the industry in new directions. 

The Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF) has made strides in recent years to include among its members a greater percentage of female managers. SMIF is the capstone to investment studies and provides valuable, real-time experiential learning in securities analysis and portfolio.

Read about some of this year’s managers, what intrigued them about the finance industry, and what it means to help bridge the gender gap. 

Stephanie Gridley, head value fund manager, is pursuing a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Mathematics. Over the past two summers, Stephanie interned as a global markets summer analyst in the sales and trading division at UBS. Following graduation, she will be returning to UBS in New York City as a full-time analyst in the rates sales division.

“UR gives managers full freedom in making investment decisions, which is what truly allows us to take what we learn in the classroom and apply it to real-life scenarios. SMIF fosters an environment for collaboration and has allowed me to gain critical skills and techniques that I can directly apply to my career. Having a strong presence of women in SMIF, and in the financial industry as a whole, is essential in bringing forth a wide variety of ideas and perspectives. Being a part of SMIF has challenged me in the best of ways, and has helped me gain confidence in my role as a woman entering the industry, where I hope to continue recruiting and mentoring other young females to enter and succeed.”

Erica Grosso, growth fund manager, is pursuing a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Psychology. Most recently, Erica worked at Barclays as a sales and trading analyst where she completed rotations on the rates sales and EM FX trading desks. After graduation, she is excited to be returning to the rates sales team full-time. 

“I wanted to take advantage of this unique learning opportunity to have hands-on investing experience before graduating college. SMIF has challenged me and has helped me to develop personally and professionally. I know I will apply these skills wherever I go next and I believe what I learned in SMIF will help me to add value in the future. Getting involved in programs like SMIF and utilizing female mentors through Richmond has empowered me as a female in a male-dominated industry. It has made me more confident in myself and my abilities.”

Radia ElHallam is from Casablanca, Morocco, majoring in Business Administration with a dual concentration in Finance and Management Consulting along with a minor in Psychology. Most recently, Radia interned at Alira Health, a boutique consulting firm focused on healthcare, in their business development division this past summer.

“I knew SMIF was a truly unique opportunity through which I could explore the art of investing. I wanted to gain real-world experience in securities analysis and portfolio management, work along with talented and bright student analysts, and equip myself with skills I can apply in the job market. It’s imperative to change the narrative of the field of finance and create a culture where everyone can bring their unique gifts to the table. For things to change, we need more female role models paving the way and encouraging our female students to join the Robins School and SMIF to make a difference. Furthermore, we must support and invest in our female professors and students.” 

Emily Mendelson, ESG manager, is pursuing a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Chinese Language Studies. Most recently, Emily interned at Stifel Financial Corp as an investment banking summer analyst. At Stifel, she worked within the diversified industrials group and will be returning as a full-time analyst following graduation.

"As the ESG manager, it has been especially rewarding to further integrate ESG considerations into our two funds. The intersection of finance and sustainability has been—and will remain—a top concern for investors. I am grateful for this opportunity and hope to be able to use my skills to grow the endowment for the benefit of the next generation of students at the University. SMIF has fostered a culture of inclusivity, regardless of someone’s gender or background; all voices are heard, valued, and respected. The diversity of perspective and highly collaborative environment has led to better-informed decisions, undoubtedly contributing to the strong investment performance over the years.”

Nicole Willis, growth fund manager, is pursuing a major in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Accounting. This summer she interned at BNP Paribas as a sales and trading analyst. After graduation, she will be returning to BNP Paribas as part of their repo sales team. 

"I joined SMIF because of the real-world learning experiences it gives to students and the collaborative environment it creates. Being a woman in a male-dominant field is so important to provide different points of view and thoughts. Having other females around me in SMIF has been extremely helpful in providing advice and guidance."

Ying Zhu, value fund manager, is from Hangzhou, China, and is a double major in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Computer Science, and a potential minor in Mathematics. Next summer, she will be working at BlackRock with the Alternatives (Private Equity) Group. 

"I think SMIF really offers a great learning opportunity. I enjoy the opportunity to exercise the theories and what we learn from classes and apply it to the real world. More women should be included in the space, and especially in the financial service industry. SMIF is a great place to start! We should actively recruit more women and people from diverse backgrounds in the future."