The 2023 College of Charleston Strategic Investment Symposium kicked off Friday, February 24, in a packed room at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. Now in its ninth year, the symposium brings together financial professionals to discuss the latest in investment strategy, global markets and more.

What began as a small annual program meant to help students network and learn how to invest has now become a large event with more than 300 registrants. According to Mark Pyles, professor of finance and director of the Investment Program, the symposium serves as an important gathering for financial professionals in the region.

“I think academic institutions have to be at the center of filling the gap that exists within Charleston’s financial community,” says Pyles. “If you want to be a sophisticated financial center, you need events like this.”

In addition to morning sessions on the Global Markets Outlook and Investment Strategies, six breakout sessions on topics ranging from thematic to fixed income investing kept the day filled with practical and relevant information for attendees and ample time for networking. Here are a few takeaways from this year’s symposium:

“It’s okay times”

With high interest rates, inflation and talks of a recession looming, a hot topic for the Global Markets Outlook session was economic and financial market activities. “It isn’t the best of times. It isn’t the worst of times,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “It’s okay times.”

Kelly detailed his predictions on economic growth, jobs, profits, inflation and the Federal Reserve. He shared his biggest secret to investing: “Seeing the present with clarity.”

According to Kelly, we are experiencing a slowdown, not a recession. “We are a banana skin away from a recession.”

It’s not the data, it’s the interpretation

Charleston Conference Photography by Reese Moore

“The problem with big data is not the data, it’s the interpretation,” said Paul Donovan, chief economist of UBS Global Wealth Management.

Nearly all economic data are based on surveys and response rates tend to be low. As a result, we are missing a lot of what is happening in the economy.

Donovan also spoke about the global trend of those in Generation Z who have yet to return to the workforce like the world expected. Donovan believes they are working, but the data do not reflect their jobs—like influencer marketing.

He noted that some sectors of the economy are now acting differently due to the pandemic. By the middle of the year, he believes we’ll see a stabilization of growth across all sectors. In an attendee poll, 26% of respondents predict that energy will be the top performer for the year out of the 11 sectors of the S&P 500.

Taking stock

During the Investment Strategies session, David Bailin, chief investment officer and global head of Investments at Citi, said that 2022 was the worst year for stocks and bonds since 1931 and that “bonds are back, and this is the time.”

Cameron Dawson, chief investment officer at NewEdge Wealth, shared how there is always an emotional component in the total price of a stock.

“Know what you own and why you own it,” she explains. “It is the most important part of portfolio construction.”

Alan McKnight, Jr., executive vice president and chief investment officer at Regions Asset Management, went on to say that despite the Federal Reserve continuing to raise interest rates, fixed income has an opportunity to earn a real return again.

Competitive edge

Student leaders in the 2023 Investment Society shared more about their experience and fund performance.

The School of Business Investment Program began in January 2013 as the result of a generous donation from College of Charleston parents Steve and Maureen Kerrigan. The program is funded through non-endowed accounts housed in the College of Charleston Foundation.

“We try to mimic a real asset management shop,” explains Anthony Spinella, a senior majoring in finance. Each student in the program holds a specific position ranging from economist to analyst. Spinella serves as a managing director of the student-run fund alongside Jody Bell, a senior in the Honors College majoring in finance.

The program’s alumni network is robust and places students at top firms across the country. After graduation, Spinella will join State Street Global Markets as a senior associate. Bell will be a sustainable investing analyst at BlackRock in New York City. Students in the program are well-equipped to go toe to toe in one of the most competitive industries with the qualitative skills needed to excel in finance.

Stay tuned for the upcoming 10th Annual Strategic Investment Symposium in 2024. For more information, visit