Goldman Sachs Vice President Ariel Williams ’06 recounted her journey to becoming an investment professional and gave an overview of markets and investing fundamentals at a presentation to Loomis Chaffee students on January 15 — the second of five evening seminars on personal finance for students.
Ariel noted that she was not especially interested in business or finance in high school or college. She said she had many interests and didn’t really know what she wanted to do professionally.
From Ellington, Conn., Ariel was a talented student, athlete, and dancer at Loomis, and she excelled at running, winning the individual title at the New England cross county championship and captaining the cross country team. She gave a shout out to Becky Purdy, her cross country coach and faculty advisor, and shared some photos from her time on the Island at the beginning of her presentation.
“You don’t realize how magical this place is when you’re here,” she said and noted that her time on the Island had a profound influence on her life.
Ariel credits her liberal arts experience at Loomis and at Williams College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, for teaching her “how to learn.”
After Williams, Ariel took a job doing public relations for Major League Baseball, which had noting to do with finance, she said. While working towards her master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia University, she landed a summer internship at Goldman Sachs Financial Services Company, and the experience inspired her to pursue an M.B.A. at Columbia’s Business School and a career in finance.
She is now a vice president and chief operating officer of sports and entertainment business for Goldman Sachs in New York. Working in the investment business made her feel empowered, she said. “People take advice from me,” she explained.
She also felt the career was an opportunity to make an impact as a woman and a person of color. “There are not a lot of people who look like me in my business,” she said.
Ariel also offered practical investing advice for the large group of students gathered in Hubbard Hall for her presentation. “Everyone thinks investing is complicated, but it’s really not,” she said. “Investing is putting your money to work with the ultimate goal of having your money work harder than you.”
It’s helpful to learn about investing at a young age, she said, because the earlier one starts, the more time there is to take advantage of compounding for wealth accumulation.
Ariel’s presentation described some common markets, the ways people and businesses invest in them, the difference between stocks and bonds, the reasons people choose one type of investment over another, and the relationship between risk and return. She also explained some commonly-used terms in investment, including compounding, inflation, diversification, and risk.
The investment decisions you make should depend on how soon you think you will need access to the money, and your willingness to take on risk, Ariel noted. Her other advice for young people looking to start investing is to open an account with a low-cost brokerage firm like Fidelity or Vanguard, and to subscribe to the KISS — “Keep It Simple Stupid” — model when making investment choices.
“You should aim to have about six months to a year’s worth of expenses saved before you start investing,” she advised. After her presentation, Ariel answered students’ questions.
Alumni speakers will make presentations at each of the financial literacy seminars, spread across the academic year. The series was organized by Loomis economics teachers Mat DeNunzio and Liz Leyden to help students expand their knowledge of personal finance basics before they head to college and enter the workforce.
The seminar series is made possible with support from John Pearse ’58 and Sally Crowther Pearse ’58.