Seven Samford University Brock School of Business students are working together this semester to manage the school’s Bulldog Investment Fund, an endowment worth more than $1.9 million.
Participating as a Bulldog Investment Fund manager is part of a course that has been taught in the business school since 2008.
The program has grown exponentially since it was created in 2008 with just $350,000 in funding to invest. Today, Samford students have the opportunity to work with real money in a fund and make decisions of how the money is invested in the business school’s state-of-the-art portfolio management room. The students work with Lisa Imbragulio, Samford’s assistant vice president for business and financial services, and the university’s investment manager.
“The students are well prepared for taking on the management of this fund, not just from a financial standpoint, but from a broad curriculum standpoint,” said Matt Smith, a Regions Bank investment manager who advises the group. “They’re articulate, they’re thoughtful in terms of process, and they understand how to put that process into place to make the best decisions for the university.”
The fund managers for this semester consist of six senior finance students and one Master of Business Administration student: Kay Caldwell, president; Ken McEwen (M.B.A. student), chief investment officer; Michael Wilson, chief compliance officer; Chris Hissam, secretary; Brett Hammond, community outreach officer; Ryan Ritson; and Garrett Moores.
The Bulldog Fund managers are tasked with doing research in financial sectors they are passionate about to see where the best investments can be made. They do this by using professional-grade software and subscription services, including six Bloomberg terminals providing information and financial data worldwide. Their access to this information is comparable to the access analysts have at major investment firms across the United States.
The students then process this information to identify the stock they believe to be the best from the universe of names in the sector. Next, they formulate price targets and an investment thesis. A formal presentation is made to the entire team with questions to be answered by the manager. The team votes and approved changes are made to the portfolio.
For Caldwell, being a part of this experience is so much more than taking a class.
“This is what I want to do with my life,” said Caldwell. “I just got hired as a corporate finance analyst at Regions, so I am getting really good experience doing all of this research. I can bring in this knowledge of how to come about things with a process, and I’m developing my own style of doing things, so I’ve already got a leg up on a bunch of other graduates.”
Although the student-managers have been working on the fund for only a short time, they already have begun to research ways to maximize their investments.
“We’ve gone through and looked at the old securities we have, and are trying to figure out whether or not they’ll fit in our fund or if we think they’ll perform well,” said Wilson. “We each focus on our own industries so that we can really know the competition, understand the environment and better decide what, if anything, we want to buy or sell.”
Although the Bulldog Investment Fund is part of Samford’s endowment, which is a perpetual fund, the students who manage it are involved only for a semester or two at a time. This presents a challenge for the students every year, because new managers must learn the system to ensure the best possible decisions are being made in management of the fund.
“They want to do the best job they can in the semester or two they’re involved with it,” said Smith. “They also have to take a longer-term perspective to try and make sure that what they’re doing accomplishes what is set forth in the university’s endowment.”
For students on the Bulldog Fund, the work they are doing benefits not only them, but also the Samford and Birmingham communities by incorporating on-campus and off-campus outreach to the community in order to teach others about investment and finance.
“We’ve developed the visibility of the program as we’ve come along, reaching out to high school students and adults in the community,” said Smith. “That’s been a change that we’ve been able to make more robust as we’ve gone through the years.”
Fund managers are selected through an application process, and the review process for the fall 2017 semester is in progress. Students who are interested in applying for future semesters or who otherwise have an interest in watching the decision process in action are welcome to attend a class meeting. The Bulldog Fund managers meet Mondays, 5:30–8 p.m.
Kara Kennedy is director of marketing and communication for Brock School of Business.
Victoria Shelton, a journalism and mass communication major and an intern in Brock School of Business, contributed to this story.