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Christine Kelleher, 42
Senior Investment Officer, Georgetown University Investment Office
Kelleher prides herself on her academic, liberal arts, and international background, transitioning into the field of finance without prior training. "People who aren't conventionally trained in finance bring a different perspective to investing, complementing those who are," she says. With PhD training in history and an MA in international studies from Georgetown, professional experience in Budapest as an executive at George Soros' university, and a liberal arts education which included a semester in the Soviet Union, Kelleher was brought on by Georgetown's then-CIO Larry Kochard to help start up her alma mater's investment office. "Larry will tell you that what he looks for is raw intelligence and hard workers. He is a believer in the value of a liberal arts education in developing strong critical thinkers," she says.
Kelleher joined a week after the university created its first CIO position with the hiring of Kochard, helping to build the investment office up to seven full-time people and grow the endowment from $680 million in July 2004 to $1.1 billion in December 2011. Her busy travel schedule serves not only to nurture relationships with investment managers globally, but more importantly, to gain new perspectives on what is going on in the world. "Meeting with an art gallery owner in China provided insight into the consumption patterns of the newly wealthy Chinese. Talking with the CEO of a shipping company in Hong Kong gave color on the emergence of new centers of commerce in Asia," she says. Kelleher's advice: Be skeptical of the data you're handed. If you're living and breathing stocks and investing every day, you risk missing something big. Seek unconventional perspectives. You could start with Chinese art dealers.
The Transplants: They didn't start in this industry, but here's hoping that they stay. While some pension and endowment investors began as fresh-faced college graduates, others took alternative routes—be they via philosophy degrees, hedge funds, or even (gasp!) journalism. There's an argument to be made, of course, that a richness of experience helps one see more holistically. In today's increasingly complex investment landscape, this rings true—and these five represent the outcome of this argument.