#HERstory: Celebrating Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is celebrated in March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It grew out of a week-long commemoration of women’s contributions to culture, history, and society designed around the week of International Women’s Day (March 8) starting in 1978 in Sonoma, CA. As the movement caught on, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8 as Women’s History week in 1980. Six years later, in response to a petition from the National Women’s History Project, Congress expanded the event to cover the entire month of March.

 

This Women’s History Month we shine a light on three extraordinary professionals at KAR – Jeannine Vanian, Julie Biel, and Julie Kutasov. Each of these women has paved her own path in the field of finance, making impactful contributions at the firm and inspiring her peers.

Jeannine Vanian
Chief Operating Officer

Where did you grow up/what did you study/early life influences?
My parents are Armenian and had settled in Ethiopia, where I was born.  We later moved to Dubai, and after high school, I moved to Cairo, Egypt before moving to the United States more than 35 years ago.  Living in different countries and exploring the different cultures was a fantastic experience. Those experiences have made me who I am.

 

My goal at an early age was to be independent and in control of my life. Losing my father at age 11 was a turning point for me. I was a bit of a rebel, and as a young woman of my age in the Middle East, I was determined to be able to take care of myself. My desire for stability led me to attend the American University in Cairo, Egypt.

 

As far as early life influences, when I was living with my family in Dubai, I watched a woman who ran her own business. I really looked up to her and wanted to be like her. She strengthened my resolve to be able to take care of myself.

I started at Kayne, which happened to be in the financial service industry, as a temporary office assistant.

How did you select the financial industry as a
career path?

I started at KAR, which happened to be in the financial services industry, as a temporary office assistant. I worked hard and wanted to learn and understand the business. I was fortunate to have great mentors who believed in me, encouraged me, and gave me the opportunity, across a variety of positions, to try new things, and to broaden my exposure to all aspects of the firm. I found KAR to be a firm that valued diversity, collaboration, different points of view, and teamwork. It became apparent to me that the core values of KAR closely aligned with who I am as a person. I feel very fortunate to have been with the company for over 30 years!

 

How do you define success?
Success is loving what you do and seeing the positive impact your work has on others. Success also is about enjoying my wonderful family and striving for a healthy work-life-balance. Ambition, drive, and a positive attitude also have served me well in overcoming hurdles and achieving goals.

FUN FACT: I was born in Ethiopia and have lived in 4 countries and traveled to 36.

What advice would you give women interested in working in finance?
Understand that finance is a large industry with many roles. I believe that women can and do excel in this industry because they possess many skills that work well in this business. For example, women typically channel empathy well, so listening and understanding clients’ needs and ultimately helping them achieve their financial goals is a natural fit for women. We have women leading a variety of areas within our firm. I believe this to be the case because these women have excellent skills that help make a difference in people’s lives, both for employees and clients. These talents can range from analytical, technical, organizational, or managerial and our industry offers the opportunity to flourish in all of these areas. It has been rewarding for me to see women across our organization align their skills and strengths to make a positive impact at KAR—for our clients, our employees, and within the industry itself.

If you had extra time, how would you use it?
Ideally, if I had more time, I would travel with my family. We have been to many countries together. We love to travel! It is a big world, and travel opens the door to experience so many interesting ways of life and cultures.

Julie Biel, CFA
Portfolio Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Where did you grow up/what did you study/early
life influences?

My parents are from France, where I was born. When I was a young girl, we moved to Los Angeles, which is where I grew up. My extended family lives in France, so we spent a lot of time visiting, and it was a wonderful experience. Travel was a big influence and I feel lucky to have experienced different cultures. Some of our travels included visits to India, Cuba, and Brazil. These early travel experiences became an important part of how I think about the world.

 

I studied economics and psychology at New York University and received my M.B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. Studying psychology turned out to be very helpful in thinking about the economy and the markets. Investing can be less rationale and more emotional, so understanding investor psychology is a useful skill I attempt to apply every day to my research.

 

I would say Peter Lynch (former portfolio manager of Fidelity Magellan Fund) was the biggest influence early in my life. I read his book “One Up on Wall Street” at a young age, and it has served me well ever since. I believe his sensible approach to investing is just as valuable today and syncs with what we do well at KAR.

How did you select the financial industry as a
career path?

Originally, I wanted to study marketing. After a couple of marketing internships, I decided the work was not inspiring. At the time I was reading about behavioral finance, and I realized I was interested in working with numbers and understanding investor psychology. I wanted to “marry” economics with psychology,” which led me to equity research. At my first finance job, I followed the industrial sector and enjoyed the analysis and talking with companies. I was also lucky to have a wonderful female boss and incredible mentor. Her lessons in confidence and “leaning in” to character traits that provide an advantage continue to inspire me today.

 

How do you define success?
For me success is understanding you are not able to predict the future. Equity research is like a puzzle. It requires understanding how businesses may respond in certain scenarios, such as a pandemic, inflation, and supply shortages. The research requires you to know your management teams—when companies face difficult challenges—how do they respond? The amount of complexity and unknowns are hard to factor and forecast. I believe in having a long-term vision of how companies may handle resilience and adapt to changing circumstances can contribute to making sensible investing decisions.

For me success is understanding you are not able to predict the future. Equity research is like a puzzle. It requires understanding how businesses may respond in certain scenarios, such as a pandemic, inflation, and supply shortages.

What advice would you give women interested in working in finance?
I believe many women are socialized to think they are not good at math, so math does not become a core competency. But this should not be a limiting factor to pursuing finance. I would say math is not the only factor for being successful in the financial services industry.  In my experience, women are better at understanding both qualitative and quantitative analysis—they tend to have both skills and when those skills are married to the financial side of business analysis, women should recognize those skills are very well suited to finance. Women also tend to get better candid responses from management teams—executives tend to put on less airs and provide genuine candor.

FUN FACT: I ride horses and compete in the Jumpers. I’ve competed here in California, but also in Florida, New York, and Europe. My horses are from Belgium and Germany. If you’ve ever flown from Amsterdam to Los Angeles, there is a good chance there were horses flying with you in the back of the plane.

If you had extra time, how would you use it?
I would like to have more time in the morning to organize my day. It is easy to get distracted by emails and the news of day. At the end of the day, I enjoy spending time with my son.

Julie Kutasov
Portfolio Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Where did you grow up/what did you study/early
life influences?

 

I grew up in Moscow, Russia, and began my education there as a computer science major. But I had always had a dream of attending college in the United States. At UCLA I realized that I enjoyed the theory and math part of computer science but not writing code. So, after a year, I changed my major to business/economics with a minor in accounting. After college I spent several years in public accounting and then attended Harvard where I received my MBA.

 

In terms of early influences, college professors had a big impact on me.  At UCLA two young charismatic accounting professors—I know the words “accounting” and “charismatic” are not often used together—and my professor of investment management at Harvard, were truly inspiring.

I joined KAR 20 years ago and am as passionate about what I do today as I was then.

How did you select the financial industry as a
career path?

 

I love numbers that tell a story. As I mentioned, my college professors had a big impact on my career path. What’s great about the financial industry is that it offers a very broad set of opportunities across so many different areas. This is also the industry where you never stop learning. When I began my MBA studies, I was not sure how exactly I would apply my degree. Investment management was something I discovered for myself while at business school and joined KAR as an equity research analyst right after getting my degree. That was 20 years ago, and I am as passionate about what I do today as I was then.

 

How do you define success?

 

To me success means so much more when you achieve a goal that is beyond what you initially believed was possible. And of course, the greatest achievements are possible when we don’t put limits on our own abilities.

FUN FACT: I can’t live without humor. I adore Mark Twain. On special occasions, I write humorous poems for friends and family.

What advice would you give women interested in working in finance?

 

My advice would be to be thorough in everything you do. I remember the advice my mother gave me—the same advice that her father gave her when she was starting her career: “Do good work, and people will respect you.”

If you had extra time, how would you use it?  

 

I love nature, and we are lucky to be in a beautiful place like Southern California. I live close to the ocean but sometimes don’t see it for weeks. When I finally see it, I say: “Good-still there.”  I’d love to spend more time outdoors.

DISCLOSURE

This information is being provided by Kayne Anderson Rudnick Investment Management, LLC (“KAR”) for illustrative purposes only. Information contained in this material is not intended by KAR to be interpreted as investment advice, a recommendation or solicitation to purchase securities, or a recommendation of a particular course of action and has not been updated since the date of the material, and KAR does not undertake to update the information presented should it change. This information is based on KAR’s opinions at the time of the recording of this material and are subject to change based on market activity. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. KAR makes no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of the information contained herein.

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