Student-managed investment fund provides real-world experience

For the original story, please go to: https://www.ndsu.edu/news/banner_stories/bisonfund2016/

Jason Churchill graduated from NDSU this spring with the kind of real-world experiences that financial professionals value. His business, finance and economics courses laid a strong foundation for success and his involvement in a student organization helped launch his career.

Churchill is the outgoing president of Bison Fund, a 20-member student group that helps manage more than $1.2 million in investments for the university. The fund was set up nine years ago by taking over the management of a $100,000 endowment portfolio from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Bison Fund also includes endowments and restricted gift investment pools that university administration wants to grow through investments. Income generated from the endowment funds is used for student scholarships.

Bison Fund has steadily grown with the help of careful, calculated analysis from the students. It’s one of many hands-on experiences at NDSU that help students compete and thrive as they move into the workforce.

“Students gain confidence in managing a portfolio and making real decisions about investments,” said Fariz Huseynov, NDSU associate professor of finance and the group’s adviser. “This puts them ahead of others who haven’t participated in such a real decision-making process.”

Group members evaluate companies based on factors such as industry, sustainability, management and competitors. Students present their findings to the rest of the group and use a democratic voting process to determine companies in which to invest.

“We’re focused on the long-term outlook,” said Churchill. “We find companies we believe in and understand.”

If the vote passes, eight student executive officers look at the risk tolerance and determine how much to invest. Huseynov places the order with a broker.

The initial fund managers developed a professional investment policy statement, which describes how the portfolio is invested, including guides for asset allocation and security selection.

The group meets in the Commodities Trading room in Richard H. Barry Hall, which houses the College of Business. Bloomberg’s trading platform is featured in the room, which is an advantage for students as it’s heavily used in the world of finance and asset management.

“The platform gives us a leg up as we carry that knowledge into our future jobs,” said Churchill, who taught professionals at his internship how to dive deeper into the technology.

Group members had the opportunity to visit with industry experts in New York, Chicago and Minneapolis this year. They quickly realized that the same robust analysis of companies is used by professional portfolio managers and others in the finance field.

Huseynov said students professionally manage the university’s portfolio and treat it as they would a full-time job.

Churchill showed his Bison Fund work during job interviews and accepted a market risk analyst position at Gavilon, a global agricultural and energy commodity trader based in Omaha, Nebraska. He’ll bring the knowledge gained from NDSU and Bison Fund to his career.

“I learned to make well-informed decisions,” said Churchill. “NDSU helps students stay highly involved and highly motivated.”

The Bison Fund is open to all NDSU undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of major. Students may apply by contacting Huseynov.


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