“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” said Chuck Davis ‘67, kicking off his presentation at The Governor’s Academy’s fifteenth annual Boston Business Leaders Luncheon held last month in the beautiful Wharf Room at the Boston Harbor Hotel. A self-professed “late bloomer,” Davis, now a 50-year finance veteran and leading expert on private equity, shared his early struggles as a student at the University of Vermont (UVM), where he flunked out twice before graduating.
The hard lessons of youth were not wasted on Davis. In his early twenties, while still making his way as a student, Davis shared a story about his father, Dudley Davis, a former president and chief executive officer of The Merchants Bank in Burlington, Vermont, who began teaching him about accounting and banking. Every week, Davis read investment reports with his father, and without realizing it, he was arguably becoming a highly knowledgeable investment analyst. Davis began advising his father on stock purchases for the bank and soon knew more about the stock market than anyone at Merchants Bank. Young Chuck Davis eventually became the largest owner of the bank. He credits his father, and the maturity that comes with age and experience, for teaching him not only banking but also some important lessons that guide him to this day. “Lesson number one: Find something you can learn about more than anyone else and become an expert,” said Davis. “I realized I was the world’s leading expert on Vermont banks!” Davis was also learning the art of taking calculated risks and the power of compounding interest.
Today, with Davis at the helm as CEO, Stone Point Capital manages over $45 billion in assets, and he serves as a director of AXIS Capital Holdings and The Progressive Corporation. At Goldman Sachs, the second largest investment bank in the world, Davis held several senior leadership positions, including heading up worldwide banking services over his 23-year tenure with the powerhouse investing firm. Davis also sat on The Hershey Company Board of Directors for 14 years, including serving as the company’s chairman.
Watching Davis work a room, you get a sense of the qualities that make him so formidable. He’s personable, energetic, confident, and outgoing, and his generous spirit and commitment to helping others shine through. But he’s also a keen observer and seizes an opportunity when he sees one. Davis shared a story from his days at Columbia University Graduate School of Business, where he earned an MBA and was elected to the academic honor society Beta Gamma Sigma. There, he learned a new lesson firsthand: Supply and demand. “Columbia had a terrible housing supply problem around campus on the Upper West Side of New York City, so I became an expert in real estate in that neighborhood.” Davis also believes in surrounding himself with smart people and empowering them. He sought out savvy investment partners, including a professor from Columbia, and began buying available properties around the university and sold them to Columbia at a handsome profit.
“Lesson number four: Rinse and repeat,” said Davis with a smile, meaning that once you find a winning strategy, keep going. He addressed students from The Governor’s Academy student investment club, who were invited to the luncheon to learn from Davis and network with alumni and local business leaders. He urged them to “find something you are interested in, get curious, and learn everything about an investment before it becomes hot. Be willing to make mistakes and be open to learning. You will gain the confidence to take a few risks to find opportunities all around you.”
During a lively question and answer session, Davis shared his analysis of current market conditions, where investors can look for opportunities, particularly emerging technologies that add value. He also talked about the financial impact of the global pandemic and how the Federal Reserve policies, specifically a lack of action under the former administration, have led to the current recession and inflation. “Hearing his (Davis’) perspective on the Federal Reserve’s role in the economy over time has taught me valuable lessons about why the market moves and how it changes,” said investment club member Finn Allen ‘24, who plans to work in finance as a trader or analyst and has been working on programming financial applications of his own. “The current state of the economy is incredibly competitive, and advantages are given and achieved with the advancement of technology and data analysis,” added Allen.
He also fielded questions from local business owners on strategies to weather the challenges of a recession and where to look for opportunities in emerging markets. “Mr. Davis advised investing in “green” energy and technologies because we need to shift to more sustainable practices for our planet,” said Hugo Langlais ‘24, also in the student investment club.
Davis wrapped his presentation by reassuring the audience that the economy will recover and that there are still good investment opportunities to be found. One solid stock tip: “When the market is down,” he said, straightening his Reeces logo tie, “buy Hershey’s stock. When things are bad, people buy candy!”
About the Boston Business Leaders Luncheon Committee
Now in its fifteenth year, the Boston Business Leader's Luncheon (BBLL) connects alumni, parents, and friends within the Boston business community and provides networking and continued education opportunities. The committee is deeply grateful for Committee Chair Jim Rudolph '68, P'05,'12, who has decided to step down after chairing the BBLL for the past 15 years. Rudolph’s efforts during his tenure have resulted in an impressive roster of event speakers, including Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker P'16, David Homa of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative, Derek Falvey '01, President of Baseball Operations, Minnesota Twins, Tom DiNanno '85, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defence Policy, and many other professionals and leaders. Rudolph has long appreciated the value of bringing alumni together and fostering a sense of community for professionals in the Boston area.
Committee Chair James Rudolph '68, P'05,'12, Rudolph Friedmann, LLP
Bill Alfond '67
Deborah Barry '95, First Republic Bank
Richard Kelleher P'99, '01, Pyramid Hotel Group LLC
Paul Nardone '86, P'19, Hippeas Snacks
Archie Seale '93, VMware