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Finance Stars Share Advice with Students

Many DePaul University business courses combine theory with real-world lessons. However, not all of them feature the collective wisdom of some of the most respected financial minds in the industry. This April, students had a chance to learn about personal investing from Richard H. Driehaus (BUS 65, MBA 70, DHL 02), founder and chairman of Driehaus Capital Management and namesake of DePauls Driehaus College of Business, and William Farley, chairman and president of LV Ventures, Inc.

Finance Stars Share photo
The two presented guest lectures and answered questions in an MBA class taught by Joel Litman (BUS 93), chief investment strategist of Valens Securities and a visiting lecturer at DePaul. Practical Investing: How to Make Money and Enjoy Doing It grew out of discussions the three men had last fall. Litman turned the idea into a four-day “bricks and clicks” course this spring with a seminar format and accompanying online content.

“When students come in they’re already heavily immersed in the topic,” explained Litman, who has taught other condensed classes at DePaul and is co-founder of the Center for Strategy Execution and Valuation at the Driehaus College of Business.

The course was designed to teach students how to make money in the current market by having them pick stocks using data from Valens Securities. With someone else analyzing the data, students had a chance to behave more like money managers and less like stock analysts. Having Driehaus and Farley speak on the first day of class was designed to give students a view of how successful investors think. “Students get to hear stories you can’t get in a textbook,” Litman said.

Sharing what works

Driehaus discussed wanting to share his experiences with DePaul in part because of how much the school has positively affected his life and career. While quoting Aristotle, Benjamin Disraeli and Lao Tzu, he encouraged students to challenge the conventional wisdom of left-brain investing for bicameral use of the brain that is both left- and right-brained. He pointed out that to succeed, investors must be willing to do things differently. Based on that, he shared nine para​digms worth avoiding (such as “buy low and sell high”) in hopes that students could increase their investment returns.

Overall, Driehaus urged students to keep “a sense of awe” when making decisions and to embrace change. “There’s all this talk of risk, but the other side of risk is lost opportunity. The biggest risk is not taking one,” he said.

Like Driehaus, Farley focused on the fundamentals of how to become successful. He pointed out that many people want to be millionaires, but being successful takes persistence, courage and guts. “If it were easy, everyone would be a millionaire,” he said. Farley, who spent 15 years as CEO of Fruit of the Loom and was once a minority owner of the Chicago White Sox, shared personal stories, including his triumph when buying and turning around a multimillion-dollar company, followed by his utter disappointment at later losing a $400-million deal. “Life is not straight ups or straight downs. This is a great journey. Make sure as you’re trying to be successful that you enjoy the journey,” said Farley, who earned a bachelor’s degree at Bowdoin College and a law degree at Boston College.

Advice beyond the classroom

In addition to students, the presentation also was open to invited alumni and friends. Michael Kohnen (MBA ’05) attended and spoke during the Q&A, when he asked the guest lecturers how they would manage a crisis of confidence. Driehaus encouraged perseverance: “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.” Farley noted that “some days you feel like you can do anything, and some days you feel like you can’t get out of bed,” and he urged students to be mentally tough amid ups and downs. Kohnen said hearing such advice is exactly why he sat in on the class.

“I came because I knew the day would bring interesting, unique perspectives. I mean, where else can you have both Richard Driehaus and Bill Farley in the same room, talking openly the way they did?” said Kohnen, managing director of Midwest technology for Silicon Valley Bank.

Kyle Thompson-Westra also sat in on the class, despite not being enrolled for the full course. “I was particularly interested in hearing from Mr. Driehaus in order to learn more about the man behind the school that I attend,” said Thompson-Westra, a full-time MBA student. “It was reassuring to hear both commend us for making the investment of graduate school for ourselves and what effect that can have long-term.”

Ivy Luo enrolled in the class to learn investment tactics, and she approached the session with Driehaus and Farley hoping to gain practical advice. “I wanted to learn their ways of thinking in times of uncertainty and how they approached scenarios when market condition weren’t in their favor,” said Luo, a Master of Computational Finance student and a senior investment analyst in DePaul’s Treasurer’s Office. “I think both of them are philosophical thinkers and great life coaches.”

Forming connections

After the morning’s presentations, students were invited to a luncheon with the speakers. Bob Hou, a student in the Master of Science in Accountancy program, had a chance to sit next to Driehaus and pass along a tip of his own, about a fast-growing Chinese hospital stock.

“There is a photo of Mr. Driehaus on the 7th floor of the DePaul Center on my way to my office, and I see that photo almost every day,” said Hou, a graduate assistant in the School of Accountancy and Management Information Systems. “Now I had the opportunity to meet him in person, and talk to him. Can you believe that?”

That chance for community building is part of why Litman enjoys teaching seminar-style classes on a condensed schedule. “Part-time business students don’t always get the same networking or camaraderie feeling as a full-time program. Intensive classes create a memorable experience even outside of the content,” he said. Also, he wanted to design this course and bring in high-profile guest speakers to showcase how strongly DePaul is tied to the super high-end investment community: “How many investing courses have people worth $200 million to $300 million doing the teaching?”