Warren Buffett wisdom

Students at the annual shareholder meeting, from left, Tian Jin Yang, Ryan Trabant (Investment Club president), Wanli Liu, Adam Stivers, Kory Beerkiocher, Michael O’Connell, Ryan Nelson, Ben Taft, Megan Preston, Nick Fortney, Waranyu Saengthaweep, Bryce Hartl, Anna Dineen and Dennis Crow.

Students attend annual shareholders meeting, hear insights from financial giant in person

Millions watched the live-stream video.

UWL students — at one point — took seats just below the stage where Warren Buffett sat.

Buffett, the world’s most famous investor, and his business partner Charlie Munger spent five hours answering questions at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder meeting at the CenturyLink Center Omaha in May 6. UWL students, the majority in UWL Assistant Professor Adam Stivers’ FIN 380 class and UWL’s Investment Club, attended the meeting and heard the two financial giants answer questions from shareholders, journalists and stock market analysts.

Sign that says "Welcome Shareholders, Berkyville"“It’s not every day that you have the chance to see two of the most influential people in the finance world speak,” says UWL graduating senior Bryce Hartl. “Listening to the knowledge, correlations and world topics that Buffett spoke about was impressive. He was drawing connections to things that I never would’ve thought of, and he was just so knowledgeable.”

Buffett provided his views and advice related on topics ranging from the Republican healthcare bill to the influence of driverless cars.

“I never contemplated how that [driverless cars] would have a negative effect on the car insurance industry, especially as I enter the insurance industry as a career,” says Hartl, who was hired at commercial lines underwriter for Acuity Insurance in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, after graduation. “It makes total and complete sense; it’s just something I never contemplated.”

Stivers calls the meeting a tremendous opportunity for students to see and hear from Buffett and Munger, likely the most successful investors and finance practitioners in history. Around 40,000 people attended the Omaha meeting.

“While the event is live-streamed online, there is something to be said about experiencing it in person and seeing Warren Buffett — and Bill Gates, who is on the board and a large shareholder — live and up close,” says Stivers.

UWL student Anna Dineen connected a lot of the material discussed at the meeting to her finance classes.

The last hour of the meeting involved taking care of company business such as the election of directors and voting on proposals. Many people had left at that point, and UWL students were able to move closer to the stage. They witnessed a side of one of the world’s top companies that not many people get to see, says Hartl.

UWL senior Bryce Hartl graduated Sunday, May 14. He says hearing Warren Buffett speak helped him draw connections between topics he’d never thought of such as the impact of driverless cars on the insurance industry. Hartl just landed a position in the insurance industry as a commercial lines underwriter for Acuity Insurance in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

“Now I know just how difficult it is to make changes in a publicly-traded company as shareholders must vote, and these meetings only occur once a year,” says Hartl.

The opportunity to attend the annual meeting was possible through a donation from Kevin Spellman, who also made the original donation to start the Gordon Spellman student-managed investment fund at UWL. Department Chair Rob Wolf, and Maureen Spencer, academic department associate in the Finance Department, helped Stivers with the preparations and logistics for the trip.

“I think that it was a great opportunity to learn from one of the smartest investors in the world, and would say I highly recommend future students to go to it,” says student Ryan Trabant.