Stephanie Braming, ’99, is the global head of William Blair Investment Management, a global investment management boutique headquartered in Chicago. Her teams manage $56 billion in assets globally, with two-thirds invested outside of the United States. Within her leadership role, she is focused on delivering the firm’s mission of empowering her colleagues, delivering client results, and engaging her communities.
A partner of the firm, she is also chairman of the board of trustees and president of the William Blair Funds, as well as chairman of the William Blair SICAV. She also serves on the firm’s executive committee. She is the executive sponsor for William Blair’s Women’s Alliance and serves on the firm’s Global Inclusion Council.
In 2021, the same year she spearheaded the firm’s $3.1 billion acquisition of a value equity investment firm, American Banker named Braming one of the 25 most powerful women in finance. In 2022, Barron’s named her one of the 100 most influential women in US finance.
My career path is not linear. Before I took on this role in 2017, I was a portfolio manager for the international growth and international small cap growth strategies. Prior to that, I was an equity strategist and also a consultant. I think that my broad background, different perspective, and hard work—along with a number of strong mentors and advocates—helped me navigate over the years and capitalize on new opportunities.
My role requires a combination of investment acumen and an understanding of client expectations. It’s important as a leader to understand what is required to develop a strong team, including promoting and encouraging autonomy and diversity of thought. I think those qualities help me lead.
Delivering results requires taking a long-term view. As investors, we can’t control the macro environment or market returns. We have to execute our investment philosophy and adjust portfolios based upon fundamentals, with an eye to the environment. In the midst of market volatility and geopolitical uncertainty, we proactively engage with clients. Not only are we talking to them about what we’re seeing and how their portfolios are positioned, but we’re gaining an understanding about the opportunities and risks that they are facing in order to be strong partners for them.
We don’t manage the firm to meet short-term targets. As a private partnership, we are blessed that we have a long-term time horizon. This promotes stability amidst volatility, and gives us the opportunity to lean into our strategic priorities when our peers pull back.
My undergraduate degree is in English literature. I attended the Booth Evening MBA Program with concentrations in finance, economics, and accounting in order to complement my liberal arts background. I believe that working while attending Booth simultaneously helped me translate theory into practice and cement concepts around investing, portfolio construction, organizational design, economics, and negotiation.
The investment industry needs to better articulate our value proposition to a wide array of talent. The investment industry has well-worn, traditional paths to success. But if the industry is going to thrive, we need to attract and retain the best and brightest, who come from every walk of life, from different geographies and backgrounds. We need to broaden our aperture to purposefully seek out those individuals wherever we may find them. We all know that research indicates that diverse teams really do deliver stronger results, and I’ve seen it in practice.
I went to the Evening MBA Program at Booth while also attaining my CFA designation. My company at the time paid for the majority of my education, as I didn’t have the luxury of not working. At William Blair, we also provide our employees with educational reimbursement for undergraduate and graduate classes and degrees; CFA, CPA, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) certifications; and other learning opportunities. These programs are a great way to foster intellectual curiosity. Expanding our horizons through formal programs makes for a richer organization and a more robust culture, and in the end, it helps us deliver stronger results for clients.
“It’s important as a leader to understand what is required to develop a strong team, including promoting and encouraging autonomy and diversity of thought.”
As investors, it’s important to question our beliefs and expand our horizons. I spend a lot of my free time reading and listening to podcasts across a number of topics. With a background in both liberal arts and investment, I like to connect the white space between disciplines and ideas.
One of the more recent books I read is The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I was struck by the woman protagonist’s grit and resilience in the face of significant adversity. A favorite is John Gardner’s Self-Renewal, which has solidified my view that self-renewal is critical in driving success. It’s so easy to become a prisoner of our success and succumb to the status quo. I’m always thinking about that.
I’m actively engaged in nonprofits and industry organizations outside of work. I’m lucky to have the time to give back to the community. I serve on the board of directors at the Museum of Science and Industry. I’m particularly excited about the work that the MSI is doing with girls, as well as children from underprivileged Chicago neighborhoods, to further expose them to the wonders of science and technology.
I also serve on the board of directors of Working in the Schools, the largest volunteer literacy organization serving Chicago Public Schools. Literacy is the foundation of learning, and this organization is critical in providing resources directly to elementary school students and their teachers through many volunteers and programs. I hope that together we can light the spark of learning for the new generation.