Course gives undergraduates valuable lessons that set the stage for successful business and investing as fund reaches $4 million
by Miriam Sitz '10
SAN ANTONIO - Jennifer Heard '99, a member of the first class of Trinity University's Student Managed Fund (SMF), said much of what she learned on campus has fueled her career in asset-based lending as a vice president at JPMorgan Chase in New York City.
While celebrating the 15th anniversary of the SMF during Alumni Weekend 2013, Heard assured current students that many of their professional activities will hearken back to their classroom experience. "You're digging in, you're learning the numbers, you're learning the industry trends," she said. "The skills you've learned in this class will definitely take you a long way."
In 1998, the Trinity University Board of Trustees approved a plan allowing students in a new finance course to manage half a million dollars of the University's endowment. Successful investing and additional Board allocations from the endowment brought the SMF portfolio to $3 million under management by 2010. Today, the market value of the SMF portfolio is more than $4 million, according to Prassel Distinguished Professor of Business L. Paige Fields.
SMF offers students real-world experience in developing and practicing portfolio management, securities analysis, and valuation techniques. Trinity's SMF is the largest of 63 student-managed funds at similarly-sized institutions worldwide, and ranks number 23 in size overall.
Among the more than 75 students, alumni, and friends at the SMF celebration in October were Philip Cooley, the course's inaugural professor and Fields' predecessor. In addition to Heard, John Rea '06, Mike Kelly '04, and Sardar Biglari '99 shared their thoughts on life after SMF with the audience.
Rea, a senior financial analyst at Liberty Global in Denver, attributed his first post-graduate employment with FactSet to his SMF experience. He gave students three tips for landing a job: show enthusiasm; be friendly; and preemptively make connections at a firm, even before arriving for your interview. "That's what separates you from everyone else," said Rea.
Kelly, CFA, a vice president and senior E&P analyst with Global Hunter Securities in Houston, said he learned that passion is an essential element to a successful career as a student. "When you're pitching a stock in Student Managed Fund classes here," said Kelly, "there's got to be a little bit of a narrative to it, some pepper and some spice to it ... not just a report."
Biglari, chairman and CEO of Biglari Holdings Inc. and another member of the founding SMF class, has mastered the art of achieving impressive returns through investing in "boring businesses," including Steak 'n Shake Co. and Western Sizzlin'. "Without good communication skills," he said, "there's no way I would have been able to take over any company." He also attested to the importance of a diversified knowledge base, saying, "I always felt that you need worldly wisdom to be a successful businessman and investor."
At a reception following the panel, students mingled with alumni and faculty. Senior Hang Bui, a business administration and economics major from Hanoi, Vietnam, echoed many of the sentiments expressed by the panelists. "I think it's a really important opportunity for us to have hands-on experience - and it's real money," she said. "It's good for us to have that exposure to the market instead of learning everything only from a theoretical standpoint."
Miriam Sitz is a freelance writer in San Antonio. A graduate of Trinity University in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and environmental studies, she blogs on Miriam210.com and sells handmade goods on TinderboxGoods.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz.