173. Vivian Lin Thurston, Portfolio Manager at William Blair Investment Management – The Art and Science of Portfolio Management

Vivian Lin Thurston is a Partner and Portfolio Manager at William Blair Investment Management, where she is based in Chicago. She previously covered global consumer stocks in a research role both at William Blair and a series of other financial services firms. She is Chairman of the Board at the Chinese Finance Association of American and a Principal Dancer and Director at the Xilin Dance Company.

Our conversation starts with Vivian’s upbringing in China, and what led to her continuing her education in the US.  Her background in sociology proved to be a fertile one for embarking on a coverage of consumer stocks, and she describes her journey from analyst to portfolio manager, as well as some twists and turns that punctuated it.

She has participated in Chinese dance throughout her life, and we speak then about what this has taught her in terms of physical resilience, discipline, the art of performance and striving for perfection.  Dance also teaches mental resilience and toughness, and Vivian finds that she draws on this in the fast-paced and sometimes volatile world of financial markets.  She also deeply values the creativity that dancing feeds.  You can find videos of some of Vivian’s dance performances here: https://xilin.org/xilin_services/dance/

We dig in then to the specifics of covering consumer stocks in emerging markets and some of the trends that are emerging – distinguishing between those that are likely to “stick” and those that are transient.  We examine how ESG concerns are permeating company research and how companies are responding to increased investor scrutiny as well as policy changes.

Given the under-performance of Emerging Markets over the past decade we pick apart what is going on there and whether the region suffers from being classified as one homogenous group when it reflects such divergent economies. We finally then discuss the PM role and all of its aspects, and end with Vivian’s reflections on what has driven her career.  Her focus on following her passion and her “no drama” rule have been instrumental in helping her keep an even keel throughout her career.

Series 1 of 2023 is brought to you with the kind support of HarbourView Equity Partners, a global investment firm focused on opportunities in the entertainment and media space. Founded by Sherrese Clarke Soares, HarbourView is a long-term investor in content with an industrial platform built to protect, optimize, and enhance the legacy of premium IP. With a vision of becoming a true stakeholder in the global value of content, HarbourView believes creators deserve a seat at the table creatively and economically, owning their narrative and maximizing value for all. https://www.harbourviewequity.com/

In celebration of our partnership with HarbourView Equity Partners we have selected a separate piece of music for each of the podcasts in this series.  We hope you enjoy them