8/7/17 | The Wildcat Investment Value Fund (WIVF) started with a seemingly simple question: “Why don’t we have a student-managed portfolio fund at JWU?”
At the time, Associate Professor Jean Holt, who teaches finance courses at JWU’s College of Business, offered a few practical reasons why such a fund wasn’t feasible, primarily the lack of a succession plan: “The university won’t give money to students who are going to graduate in 6 months. How would we keep the fund going?”
That was the spark Marquis Cooper '14 and Matt Ross'14 and their fellow Finance and Investment Academy (FIA) co-founders needed to craft a viable plan for a working fund.
Money never sleeps. That’s not the real world, you need to manage it 24/7, 365 days a year.”-WIVF ADVISOR JEAN HOLT
From the start, they knew they wanted to mirror their fund after real-world models — thereby giving students experience with using professional data research and investment tools to conduct real-time investing with real money. The next hurdle was creating a structure to ensure the fund’s ongoing maintenance.
In 2015, a group comprised of past, present and future FIA leaders submitted a strategic plan to JWU’s Board of Trustees that included a timeline for establishing:
- A formalized structure, including officer roles and their responsibilities
- The JWU Global Trading Center, a customized simulation trading platform supported by StockTrak and used to train and develop WIFV interns prior to their internship
- A real-money portfolio
- Experiential Education Projects in Financial Modeling (FISV 3199), a new required Finance course that embeds Wall Street Prep and other real-world analytical tools and methodologies into the curriculum
Our first mission is to steward JWU’s capital while delivering growth.”-MORA WANG '17
Money Never Sleeps: Setting Up the WIVF Internship
Shared governance was the key. Holt, who now serves as the group’s co-advisor with Assistant Professor Viviana Vilacha, emphasized that merely running the Fund under a classroom umbrella — where there is neither active management nor consistent stewardship from one academic year to the next — wouldn’t cut it: “Money never sleeps. That’s not the real world, you need to manage it 24/7, 365 days a year,” she explains. “So we created this internship umbrella scheme, where we have 5 sector analysts, a 3-member operating committee (financial model manager, a director of investment research and a chief audit & compliance officer) and a portfolio manager.”
She adds, “All of the reporting is by SEC guidelines. We don’t need to do that, but audit and compliance is such a piece of the real world and we want to make sure our internship experience is the same as if you are in the industry. We also have our director of Investment Research who oversees the analysts.”
On July 7, 2016, the WIVF officially went live by executing its first official real-money trade — they were in business!
Mora Wang '17, who served as the Fund’s 2017 financial model manager, outlines its overarching financial philosophy: “Our first mission is to steward JWU’s capital while delivering growth, whether or not markets are volatile,” she notes. “We look for stocks with strong fundamentals: book value, earnings, dividends, and cash flow, and each security’s valuation is custom tailored. Through thorough analysis, we pick securities with strong financial strength and growth potential.”
This program teaches students to practice the skills they’ll need to be the innovative industry leaders of tomorrow.”-MARQUIS COOPER '14
Underdogs Who Beat Expectations
Managing the Fund is a team effort, from the portfolio manager down to the 5 sector analysts. The core group is constantly working on leveling up their skills and improving the quality of their analytics — including integrating Money.net, a real-time data app that gives WIVF analysts 24/7 access to global market data.
Earlier this spring, the FIA hosted its 3rd Wall Street Prep intensive, a 2-day boot camp in Excel Finance Modeling and Valuation. In April, the FIA and WIVF interns attended Quinnipiac’s Global Asset Management Education (GAME), an annual finance forum that draws more than 1,400 students from colleges and universities in the US and across the world.
Although 2017 was the FIA’s 4th year in attendance, it was their first since upgrading to real-money trading — a huge difference. Sector Analyst Pauline Saintil '18 notes, “With only 11 students and having only run our live portfolio for less than a year, we were definitely considered to be the underdogs, but that’s what drives us: Knowing that we have a lot a prove, and beating expectations time and time again.”
Mora Wang agrees: “[GAME] was the best learning and networking opportunity I’ve ever participated in. I met professionals with diverse backgrounds on the top of their fields: economists, CEOs, regulators, Wall Street analysts. It gave me deep insights about what is going on in the market, outlooks for short and long term, and the newest trends.”
Finance Leaders of Tomorrow
Looking ahead to 2018, the WIVF team intends to enter GAME’s student-run portfolio competition for the 1st time and realize a goal set 5 years ago by the FIA founders.
“I see big things for this internship in the future,” notes Austin Donaldson '18, who served as the 2017 portfolio manager. “We’ve only been around for 10 months now [but] we’ve already made leaps and bounds from where we started. I think it will be a marquee program for this school.”
FIA co-founder Cooper, who currently works as an auditing associate at Massachusetts accounting firm Gray, Gray & Gray LLP, sees Fund involvement as an incredible career stepping-stone: “This program … teaches students … to think outside the box and to practice the skills that they will need to be the innovative industry leaders of tomorrow.”
For a broader look at the founding of JWU’s Finance Investment Academy (of which the WIVF is a cornerstone), read Phil Eil’s profile, “Show Me the Money: Meet the Wildcats of Wall Street.”