Williams Investment Society (WIS)

Mission Statement

The Williams Investment Society is a student organization that manages a portion of Washington and Lee University's endowment in equity securities. The Society's purpose is to provide students with a forum to develop their interest in investments and financial analysis by giving them the opportunity to actively manage real capital. The Society also seeks to broaden awareness of investments within the W&L community through sponsoring speakers and making the Society's presentations and operations open to the public..

Investment Philosophy

The Williams Investment Society looks to generate attractive returns by investing in excellent businesses at prices below intrinsic value. Our investment philosophy mirrors that of Warren Buffett in that we believe it is far better to acquire superior businesses at fair prices rather than good businesses at great prices. We believe that through extensive research and analysis, we can identify industry-leading businesses that hold sustainable competitive advantages run by managers who allocate capital in the most favorable way for shareholders.

"We like simple, predictable, free-cash-flow generative, resilient and sustainable businesses with strong profit-growth opportunities and/or scarcity value. The type of business Warren Buffett would say has a moat around it."
~Bill Ackman,Pershing Square Capital Management

Investment Policies & Procedures

WIS employs a top-down investment procedure to identify superior companies trading at reasonable prices. This begins with an analysis of the overall industry outlook, reflecting current economic conditions and forecasts. If the particular industry is deemed attractive, the Industry groups then screen for and perform in-depth financial analysis of companies. A series of procedural checks foster discussion and debate and help insure research quality. Before a position can be voted on, Industry groups must present and defend their equity research before an open audience. A simple majority of all directors determines whether or not WIS buys or sells a position.

Investment Constraints

  • WIS invests only in firms with at least $500 MM in market capitalization and a minimum $5 share price.
  • A simple majority of the votes are required to purchase or sell a stock.
  • WIS will not invest more than 5% of its portfolio in a single stock.
  • WIS will not short-sell positions or trade on margin.
  • A faculty advisor signs off University acknowledgement of all investment transactions.
  • Industry Heads sign off acknowledgement of investment transactions in their respective industries.

Recommended Reading

  • The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Third Edition by Lawrence A. Cunningham
  • The Art of Value Investing by Heins and Tilson
  • Confidence Game: How Hedge Fund Manager Bill Ackman Called Wall Street's Bluff by Christine S. Richard
  • The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
  • Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip A. Fisher
  • Value Investing: From Graham to Buffett and Beyond by Greenwald, Kahn, Sonkin, and van Biema
  • The Warren Buffett Way, Third Edition by Robert. G Hagstrom
  • Deep Value: Why Activist Investors and Other Contrarians Battle for Control of Losing Corporations by Tobias E. Carlisle