The Collegian
Monday, November 29, 2021

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Students manage part of endowment

The University of Richmond has an endowment estimated at $1.6 billion dollars, giving it the 43rd largest endowment of all colleges and universities in the United States. And more than $300,000 of it is controlled by a group of senior finance majors from the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business.

This program, called the Student Managed Investment Fund, was started by two Richmond students in 1993.

"Two students wrote a proposal, which we accepted, and the university funded them with $100,000," said John Earl, finance department chairman and Spider Management Investment Fund moderator.

Today, one of those students is the Charted Financial Analyst of his own company, and the other has a position with SunTrust Banks.

This year, 15 students are involved with the project, including Brennan O'Brien, who is serving as the group's general manager.

"We have two funds -- a value and a growth fund." O'Brien said. "I'm responsible for overseeing the two." Each fund has seven students assigned to it and a budget of about $160,000.

Senior Jeremy Weisberg, who serves as the trader for the fund, said the work started during the summer. "A lot of us were in New York City this summer," he said, "which made it easier for the group to work on the fund."

O'Brien said the investment decisions are made at weekly meetings. If a member of the group believes money should be invested in a particular stock, he or she makes a presentation at the meeting. The meetings are also used to review the existing positions of the stocks, O'Brien said.

The group members also have a trip to New York City planned for two days in September, during which they will attend information sessions, visit financial firms, and end with a networking event with Richmond alumni. Earl said the group will visit investment firms such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Lehman Brothers.

O'Brien said he is looking forward to the alumni event, for which the university rented out the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It is estimated that between 200 and 250 Richmond alumni will attend.

O'Brien said the alumni are great assets when it is time to get a job.

"It's such a competitive industry to break into," he said. "The alumni are really key and really helpful when it comes to pushing through the interviewing process."

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To become a member of the group, students can submit resumes and applications in the spring semester of their junior year. Weisberg said students must also be finance majors. Earl said student managers of the fund select their replacements. Applicants are interviewed, screened and then asked to submit a report to be graded by the managers, he said. A GPA of 3.0 or above is also required.

The program is considered to be one of the business school's strongest, and it's advertised as a draw for prospective students on the university's Web site. The Web site calls the program a "hands-on experience with investments."

The group also gives a presentation to a board of professors and professionals to show its progress. Earl said the board makes recommendations but stressed the independence of the group.

"It truly is student funded," he said. "They make their own decisions. They don't need my approval."

Last year's group broke even with their funds, O'Brien said. So far this year, he said the funds are even with Standard and Poor 500, but the group's goal is to outperform the S&P 500.

"Hopefully we can do that this year," O'Brien said. "The market's a little crazy."

Weisberg agreed: "I definitely think we'll make money"

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