Impact ’19: Stacy Lewis Daher

Stacy Lewis Daher is an experienced financial leader with a successful track record in asset management, finance, accounting, treasury, procurement, debt issuance and management, and financial planning roles at the University of San Francisco and PricewaterhouseCoopers. She leads the investment of one of the best performing endowment portfolios in the country as of June 30, 2018, with performance in the top 1% of other endowments and foundations over the last 5 years and performance in the top 2% of other endowments and foundations over the last 15 years.Stacy was appointed as a Board member on the California Educational Facilities Authority by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. In her board capacity, she approves the issuance of tax-exempt bonds issued by the State of California, which provides tax-exempt capital financing for private higher educational institutions in the state, Prior to her role at the University of San Francisco, Stacy was a Senior Associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she served two main audit clients: one large academic medical center and one public technology company.*
Alan
I’m busy here today with Stacy Lewis. She’s the Associate Vice President of Finance and Treasury at the University of San Francisco. Welcome to today’s show.
Stacy
Thank you.
Alan
So, Stacy, prior to coming into the university system, what was your experience?
Stacy
So, before I started working at the university, granted, this was a long time ago, 18 years ago, I’ve been there quite a while I was I did client service at Price Waterhouse Coopers. So, I was in the assurance area. So basically, I was auditor for four years. And then four years is a while for public accounting. So, I definitely wanted to try something new. So, I moved from St. Louis, Missouri, out to San Francisco, in January 2002, to the worst job market in history and landed a job at USF. And I’ve been there ever since.
Alan
On a daily basis, you’re dealing with finance and the overall operations for the university.
Stacy
Right?
Alan
How is education changing today? I hear that the costs are going up, the enrollment is going down? What are some of the observations that you see that the biggest challenges?
Stacy
Yeah, I think, obviously, affordability for the students is a huge issue. , the cost of education is increased even at a higher rate than healthcare over the last several decades. But it’s not that we’re doing anything lavish, I think if you think about it, like what other industry do, you want to employ a lot of PhDs , and these are, high level employees, they demand a decent salary. And that’s basically a lot of our workforce. So, it’s obviously expensive. We have to, build dormitories, we have to have cafeterias, almost like a little city. And so, it’s not like there’s anything lavish there, it’s just really expensive to provide university education. But on the flip side, it’s getting more and more difficult, I think, for families to afford it. And we’ve seen the stories about, the student loan pending crisis. But we try to get the kids out in as close to four years as possible. So, then they don’t have that opportunity cost of, that your five and six when they’re not earning anything.
Alan
What’s the total enrollment in your school right now?
Stacy
Oh, boy, now I have to remember exactly, I think it’s around 12,000, I should know that off the top of my head. So, it’s a larger university,
Alan
Is it growing?
Stacy
We’re fairly stagnant. Um, we’re kind of landlocked in the city. So we don’t have a lot of areas for expansion. So, I’m not in seeing anticipating major growth, probably say, close to the same over the next five years.
Alan
When you see kids come out today, do you feel in your observation that they’re prepared for the world that we live in?
Stacy
That’s hard for me to answer because I’m not involved in the student’s day to day. Um, I think it’s hard to teach, obviously, someone to do a particular job in college or teaching them to build the skills and I guess, gain the judgment, so that when they’re out in the world, then they can use those skills really, across, multiple different professions that they might choose, I would say,
Alan
When you’re, when you’re going on a day to day routine, you’re primarily dealing with the admissions, your enrollment, the payment of bills, just basically keeping the engine the university going.
Stacy
I’m more kind of financial strategy and investing on the endowment side, as well as the Treasury function of the university. So, we’re in a capital campaign right now. So, a big focus is growing the endowment. So that, we have more revenue, income spinning off of it every year to help fund our operations, long term
Alan
Capital campaigns, are they hard to manage?
Stacy
Luckily, I don’t have to manage it. But um, yeah, I mean, there’s a whole profession of, people that do this for a living, they raise money. And that’s kind of their specialty. I don’t I kind of play more of a support role.
Alan
You’re basically the account to say, you hit your numbers and your benchmark,
Stacy
Right. And I’m really a fiduciary for when our Development Division raises money from a donor. Okay, what happens to it once it gets to the university, and are we investing it wisely? Are we using the money that the donor gave us the way they instructed us or wish us to use the money?
Alan
Okay, now
This fact I know, you guys have done phenomenal with your investments of endowments?
Stacy
Yes, we have.
Alan
Ok Let’s talk about, let’s talk about the-
Stacy
And how did that?
Alan
Oh, you got a reputation? You got a very good reputation. So, let’s talk about approaches of how do you decide? Because it’s a fiduciary duty and you want to make sure you’re fulfilling your responsibility? Well, right. What are the what’s the process that you go through deciding to invest not to invest?
Stacy
Well, we have an investment committee, and we also have multiple people internal involved with myself, we have a consultant, investment consultant, there’s a CFO that’s also involved. So, we can kind of screen, come up with good ideas internally, we also get a lot of ideas from the Investment Committee, they have a lot of contacts in the Bay Area and, around the world. So, I think a lot of the success is listening to everyone and being open, not being scared to have, 70 venture capital funds that most universities are a size don’t have. And that I think helps contribute to our success.
Alan
Stacey, thanks for being on today’s show. I’ve been busy here today with Stacy Lewis. She’s the Associate Vice President of Finance and Treasury at the University of San Francisco.
Edited for Clarity
*Source: LinkedIn, Bio Adapted in Format

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