Student Managed Fund welcomes 15th anniversary

The Student Managed Fund celebrated its 15th anniversary with a celebration with alumni of the class of ‘99 on Oct. 11. The key speakers included SMF alumni Sardar Biglari ‘99 chairman and CEO of Biglari Holdings Inc, Jennifer Heard, ‘99, vice president of  JPMorgan Chase, Mike Kelley ‘04 vice president and senior research analyst of Global Hunter Securities and John Rea, ‘06, senior financial analyst-investor relations at Liberty Global.

“It was awesome to hear them speak. They have been through a lot of the stuff we have. They learned the same skill we did. Basically, their message was even at their current professions, even though they were away from Trinity University they were still applying the same skills in their current roles,” said Vannie Collins, senior and SMF class member.

The Student Managed Fund class was created in 1998 and was given $500,000 of the university’s endowment fund to invest and manage. Since then, the fund has grown to over $4 million. The class is now under leadership of Lisa Paige Fields, professor of business and business administration.

According to Fields, the fund has been so successful that students proposed to increase the fund in both 2005 and 2011. The structure of the class has changed to allow for more continuity in knowledge for the fund.

“Now we have changed the structure of Student Managed Fund a bit. Now instead of it being a one-year course in the fall and spring semester only, we now have SMF I offered both fall and spring and we now have SMF II offered both fall and spring,” said Lisa Paige Fields.

The class requires an application process that is highly competitive. Applicants must meet a minimum GPA requirement and go through multiple interviews with the professor and members of the class. Once students are accepted into the class, they are expected not only to manage the fund, but also present to the board of trustees.

“The students have to present to the trustees. They have to show up and make a presentation on how they have been doing with the university’s money,” Fields said.

There are specific rules about about investing for the class.

“We have rules about that and it is pretty limited. We don’t do anything speculative. We only invest in common stock and domestic equities. That limits what we can do. There is no short selling,” Fields said.

Trinity’s Student Managed Fund is one of the biggest funds in the world. It has grown a large amount since the class invested in it.

“If you take all of the funds in the world, which is 320, we ranked 23rd in size out of everyone. If you take the funds of the schools that have the size we do roughly, there are 63 of those funds in the world and we are the top in terms of size. We are the largest for a school with our enrollment,” Fields said.

The real-world experience the class provides and the prestige of the fund has helped motivate students to apply for the class.

“I wanted to gain more exposure to real life experience like this. Trinity’s Student Managed Fund is one of the largest funds for a university in existence out there. To have the chance to experience this is definitely worthwhile,” said Hank Leeper, senior and SMF class member.

While the fund has experienced success, it also fluctuates with the economy.

“There has definitely been times the fund has lost money. The way we measure success… we don’t really measure in terms of if we make a gain or lose money, but it’s relative to the benchmark of the Standard and Poor’s 500. The fund this year is ahead of the Standard and Poor’s 500 and has gained this year substantially,” Fields said. “We have a long-term investment strategy. We are not trying to time the market. We are in for value.”

The class provides a practical application of knowledge for students who are studying finance.

“We take the tools we learn in financial management policy and apply them to real world situations and try to find companies that would be good investments for the portfolios,” Leeper said.

Working with a fund valued at over $4 million has been a talking point for several of the students in the class that are searching for jobs.

“It is the most practical and impressive thing on my resume. People who are interviewing me always want to talk about it. Whenever I tell them it is completely student run there is always a good reaction. It is really impressive to put on a resume,” Collins said.

The students are given a lot of responsibilities in the class including two stock reports. Students that are passionate about finance are given an opportunity put their class experience in action.

“It is a stimulating class and you definitely walk away with a lot out of it,”  Leeper said.

“As a student it is really exciting. It is an awesome opportunity that most students won’t ever get the chance to experience. It is exciting and at the same time it is something that you have to take seriously,” Collins said.