After retiring from a successful career managing the University of Virginia Investment Management Company – a period in which UVA’s endowment grew from $50 million in 1974 to over $2 billion – Alice Handy decided to build something new. In 2003, she founded Investure, an outsourced investment firm that now manages $13 billion in assets among a consortium of 15 college and foundation clients.

 

Throughout her career, Alice has been a pioneer. Starting out as a bond trader in the male-dominated finance industry, Handy went on to become the first Investment Officer at UVA. She became Treasurer for the University of Virginia, and finally President of the University of Virginia Investment Management Company. Additionally, she served as the first female State Treasurer for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Her national service has included board service for national corporations and preeminent cultural institutions such as the Smithsonian Institute and Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

PIONEER

After I graduated from Connecticut College, I started out as a Bond Portfolio Manager for the Travelers Insurance Company in Hartford, Connecticut. I had majored in Economics, which was rare for women at the time, and there were very few women working in finance. I had to deal with some element of patriarchal culture in the office, but I also had two great male mentors who supported me at Travelers where I eventually became Assistant Vice President. Throughout my career, I have focused on building a record, and one of the things I love about finance is that your abilities and work are based on a completely objective measure of success.

When I came to Charlottesville in 1974, I was hired as UVA’s first ever Investment Officer. I think they were hoping that I would just maintain the existing portfolio, but I was never one who was satisfied to just keep something going. So even though I had experience with bonds, I had to spend time developing an expertise in equities in addition to learning how universities work broadly. Over time, both the team and the sophistication of the investment portfolio grew and, in my 29 years there, from $50 million to $2 billion.

STARTING INVESTURE

In 2003, when I retired from UVA, I started thinking about outsourced investment offices. It was a new concept – most institutions were either large enough to have their own investment office, like UVA, or were much too small and using an investment consultant to aid their governing board in making investment decisions. A friend of mine, who is a venture capitalist, encouraged me to put together a business plan and the backbone of what would ultimately become Investure began to emerge. We would bring together a consortium of mid-sized colleges and foundations and pool their investment capital in order to provide the many benefits of scale that come from having a larger investment office, including having exposure to a larger deep team of investment professionals and greater access to top-tier investment managers. In short, the hope is that these smaller institutions would be able to compete against much larger institutions in terms of investment sophistication and, ultimately, returns. When my venture capitalist friend read the business plan and said he wished he could invest it in, I started to set the wheels into motion. At that point in my career, I wasn’t afraid of failure.

 

The “Seven Sisters,” a group of historically women’s colleges in the northeast, was discussing the possibility of consolidating their investments. I met with them to compare their ideas with my own and, at the conclusion of the meeting, one of the members – Smith College – was eager to move forward. Joined by two partners from UVA, we launched Investure at the beginning of 2004 with $1 billion from Smith College.

“I was never one who was satisfied with just keeping it going.”

TRUST

At the core of Investure’s mission statement is that, above all else, we are “stewards of our clients’ trust.” Trust is built by acting with integrity, being open and honest about both successes and mistakes, and exceeding service expectations time and time again. Investing is a risk-taking business within a constantly changing environment, which means that there will inevitably be ups and downs. A basis of trust means that Investure and its clients can ride out those “downs” with a focus on the long-term.

 

We have grown closely and deliberately over the years in order to make sure that we could continue to provide high-touch service to all clients in the Consortium. We reached our initial goal of 10 clients in 2007, which was earlier than outlined in the initial business plan, and we have now settled around 15 clients. We have grown to 40 team members, and we define our team members as our valuable assets – and we seek to nurture their successes, invest in their development, and cultivate an environment where they are passionate about the work that they do for our clients.

“Investments are all about trust.”

MENTORSHIP

I have always recognized that I have never achieved anything alone – I have always received mentoring and support along the way. So, to women in a senior role, I believe it is our responsibility to help and encourage younger women to succeed.

 

My other advice, as cliche as it sounds, is to get involved. I really enjoy being a part of the community and serving on boards. I encourage employees at Investure to get involved with local boards, and we have the “Investure Gives Back” program that gives us all frequent opportunities to help within the community.

 

And finally, people in life will tell you that you need to create a plan in order to be successful. What I want young people to know is that I never had a “life plan”. What I did was to go out and get a lot of experience. As you get exposure to new places, new things, new opportunities, allow yourself to learn from other people all along the way. That, to me, is success.

TAKING RISKS

LEARNING FROM MENTORS

GIVING BACK

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