Our Fairygodboss of the Week is a 25+ year veteran of international and global investing. Rupal Bhansali’s career has been unconventional and distinctive; she’s never been afraid to go against the grain and invest in non-traditional stocks, sectors or countries. Her career success will inspire you to open yourself up to exciting new opportunities and possibilities.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Rupal Bhansali
Chief Investment Officer, International & Global Equities, Ariel Investments
New York, NY
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
RB: My colleagues have called me “a born investor.” I come from a long line of bankers and brokers, and grew up on stock stories instead of fairy tales. I was very eager to enter the world of finance, learned accounting by the age of 16 and began working in the field right out of high school. By age 24, I had edited prospectuses, calculated residual values on lease portfolios and learned how to trade foreign exchange.
After earning my MBA, I initially worked on emerging markets and then later on developed markets around the world. Although unusual for a long-only manager, my buy-side career began on the long-short side at Soros, where I sharpened my focus on absolute returns and downside protection. By age 30, I was managing money as an analyst/portfolio manager at Oppenheimer Capital in New York. In 2001, I joined Mackay Shields, where I led the international equities division and enjoyed a distinguished career for 10 years. In September 2009, Forbes International named me a “Global Guru.” My unconventional investment views and non-consensus stock picks have also been featured in leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Financial Advisor and the Australian Financial Review.
I joined Ariel in 2011 as Chief Investment Officer for International and Global Equities. At Ariel I found a kindred spirit, where my investment philosophy of applying independent thinking and owning high-conviction, concentrated portfolios coincided with the firm's philosophy.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
RB: I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to deliver top notch investment results for my clients in totally different and hostile market environments over the past two decades. For example, Morningstar (the highly regarded firm which monitors mutual fund performance) has awarded the Ariel International Fund which I manage a 5-star Overall Morningstar Rating™ for fund performance.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
RB: Emigrating to the U.S. with no money in my pocket but a dream in my eyes to become a world-class investor. I overcame my financial constraints by winning a worldwide competitive Rotary Foundation scholarship that paid for my higher education in the US – something I could not have afforded on my own.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
RB: Raise your hand (especially when others are not) for any assignment or project because it will allow you to showcase your abilities. Then wow your colleagues and your manager with the results. Twenty years ago, I raised my hand to cover Japanese Equities markets when we had a departure on our research team. I did not speak, read or write Japanese. I had never been to Japan nor did I know much about the markets there. But that didn’t stop me from raising my hand. My career took a pivot when I delivered strong performance against the odds.
FGB: Why do you love where you work?
RB: I love working at Ariel Investments because the firm allows me the freedom to stay true to my own values and investment discipline and gives me complete autonomy to oversee my team and portfolios. On a day to day basis, I am able to concentrate on research and finding the best companies to own for our global and international investment portfolios – which is what I love to do!
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?
RB: Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments — because she skews the curve up for me and others — we are inspired to perform better than before. She demands and gets the best out of people - I would not have it any other way.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
RB: At present, when I am not working I am writing a book on investing to openly share the secrets of my craft.
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?
RB: Ayn Rand – she taught me the power of ideas and ideals.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
RB: Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
RB: “Life is Beautiful.”
FGB: What book would you take with you on a desert island?
RB: I actually would bring issues of The Economist to read.
FGB: What would you buy if you won the lottery?
RB: If I won the lottery I would buy a private university — I want to change what and how we learn.
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