The Full-Time MBA program at the USC Marshall School of Business Leading Voices in Business speaker series brings senior executive leaders as well as prominent Marshall scholars to the classroom to speak with graduate business students.
On January 10th, USC’s Marshall Graduate Student Association (MGSA) and the Center for Investment Studies (CIS) co-presented the 2019 series kick-off event featuring Jack Woodruff, Portfolio Manager for Surveyor Capital – Citadel.
CIS Co-director Suh-Pyng Ku introduced Woodruff to a room full of Marshall students. MBA and Student Investment Fund program student Devon Carew moderated the vibrant discussion with Woodruff, where they chatted about his investment philosophy, the importance of a systematic investment process, and career advice.
Woodruff shared his professional background, which began with an Accounting degree from USC. Upon graduation, he worked for Ernst & Young before getting his MBA at NYU Stern. Woodruff then crossed paths with Gabe Plotkin, who he describes as a “total superstar”, at a now-defunct NYC hedge fund. They quickly became friends, and moved to SAC together. After five years under Plotkin’s mentorship at SAC, he was approached by Citadel to head up a team of 20 professionals at Surveyor Capital.
Woodruff’s team focuses on long-term equity investments through individual stock picking. When asked about his investment philosophy, Woodruff says “…So it's about knowing our companies inside and out, and so by holding ourselves out to be more industry experts and sector specialists, we're much more focused on sort of identifying when a business is going to change. So we can get involved in hyper-growth. We can get involved in deep value. We can get involved in special set. It doesn't really matter." Woodruff also emphasized the importance of timing. “Part of investing is timing, and being right and being early is wrong because you're early, or being late is, obviously, really wrong.”
Process is Everything
Woodruff then described how his team implements its investment strategy. “So process is everything. That's pretty much where I spend the majority of my time, really thinking about how we do our job. And it's all about having a sustainable process that allows you to maximize your chances and allows you to get out of losers and maximize winners.” Having this systematic process in place is critical for effective analysis, and leads to better decisions.
Be Wrong Small, Be Right Big
When asked about data analytics, Woodruff described how tech has changed the investment landscape. What once was a competitive advantage is now readily available. Strategies have shifted to interpret the signals created when new information is released. Correct data interpretations through scenario analysis and behavioral finance guide his decision-making. Then he tells the audience “If you're going to be wrong, be wrong small. If you're going to be right, be right big.”
Woodruff cautions not to be reliant on one data point. “You put yourself in a position where you're reliant on one data point, and if that data point comes in wrong-- because if you need one data point to hit, I guarantee it's the wrong one going to hit.”
Learn the Fundamentals
Carew asked Woodruff for advice for students who are just beginning their careers in investment banking. Woodruff immediately recommended learning the fundamentals. “I mean, the best thing I ever did was just get a really good, solid foundation of the fundamentals. I mean, having the accounting background was great for me. Accounting is just a language. It's just kind of understanding financial statements, how they work. And that, to me, was great. And it's funny that the lessons from accounting and the lessons from business school are how I've sort of built my entire career.” He says he still integrates SWOT analysis, five forces, and DCFs (“the best valuation tool”) into his current process and financial models.
To see excerpts from past LViB events, please visit https://www.marshall.usc.edu/programs/mba-programs/full-time-mba/leading-voices-business.