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UMD Seniors Analyze Investment Options

December 7, 2016
Courtney Salmela
University Marketing and Public Relations

UMD seniors advance through an intensive, experiential semester managing the LSBE Financial Markets Program's investment fund.  

Curt Lachappelle, Stephen Espel, and Nathan Herman, seniors in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics' (LSBE) Financial Markets Program, are currently building on UMD’s student-managed investment fund. "The Bulldog Fund, LLC” has investments in 48 companies and is currently valued at $1.2 million dollars. Joe Artim, director of the tiered LSBE Financial Markets Program, created a curriculum that is centered around hands-on learning where students research, analyze, collaborate, and manage real investments inside the program's investment portfolio.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM

There are two students assigned to each of the nine different sectors that manage existing portfolio holdings, as well as generate new investment ideas over the program's 15-month experience. Students are assigned to each sector based on interest in the spring semester, before starting the formal academic component in the fall. Curt is in the Consumer Discretionary Sector that invests in companies that cater towards items that are purchased by consumers with disposable income. Stephen and Nathan are in the Energy Sector that invests in companies such as oil and natural gas. Each group is responsible for managing five or six companies that they think will do better than the sector overall.

“Our program isn’t necessarily the typical classroom format. We work hands-on in the lab and with the industry,” said Curt. Not only does the program require students to develop a range of technical skills like company research and analysis, but also soft skills like presentations and collaboration.

Students in the LSBE Financial Markets Program utilize the lab space every day. There is full access to computers and research databases that help students track changes in the market. It is important for students to check the news and stay up to date with the company’s strategies or other factors that could affect investments. “There is a sense of accountability throughout the lab, all of us are putting in the work,” said Nathan.

Each semester, the sectors focus on one company to pitch to the program’s Investment Oversight Committee that is composed of program alumni and other industry professionals. The committee has the final say if the investment will make it into the portfolio. “You have to know the company’s story and be able to explain why you think this company will grow and succeed,” said Stephen. If the committee approves the investment, then the sector will buy the stock and be able to watch the fund grow.

PERSEVERING THROUGH CHALLENGES

“Being in this program is really unique because we don’t take tests and we don’t have homework at this point. We have these presentations that represent our research and knowledge of a company. It’s not like other classes where you study for a test the weekend before. We have been preparing for this presentation for weeks,” said Nathan.

Working with a partner requires the members to delegate responsibility and trust each other. When the sectors give their presentations there is a lot to understand, so being able to rely on your partner is a huge component. “Sometimes it’s challenging to take two ideas and make them cohesive; however, it definitely creates new viewpoints,” said Stephen.

“In addition to that, when you get into the industry you’re not working by yourself, you’re working as a team. A lot of the processes we go through are real world application” said Curt.

MENTORSHIP AND COLLABORATION

The seniors explained that the most challenging part of the program is the time commitment adjustment because there is always more data to look into. “It’s definitely a different approach to learning because it’s not just memorizing certain information. It’s really about breaking down the material and being able to teach it to someone else, and I think that building knowledge that way has helped us all in other classes,” said Nathan.

The LSBE Financial Markets Program offers a real time learning experience. Aside from networking with company representatives and traveling for development trips, students get to meet past participants and receive advice about beginning their careers. When the seniors were able to meet with past alumni they were surprised about how much passion and enthusiasm they have for their job and also how successful they are.

This year Joe Artim, director, created a mentorship for the program. Each sector is assigned one or two mentors that are available to answer questions and guide the students through investment decisions. The mentors are assigned to each sector based on experience in that category. Some of these mentors are alumni that are located in Duluth, but others are located across the country like New York or Chicago.

“There are great mentors in the program that we are able to communicate and work with. It really speaks to the talent that Joe and the program have been able to recruit and develop,” said Nathan.

Learn more about the LSBE Financial Markets Program or "The Bulldog Fund, LLC."

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