Published 03/26/13

FMC and Archway Investment Fund

Maura Dowling CFP, discusses the finer points of managing a client portfolio with her class.

Archway Investment Fund - Real-world Experience

On November 5, 2005, after receiving a heartfelt proposal written by three inspired faculty members, Bryant University’s Board of Trustees voted to invest $200,000 in the Archway Investment Fund – which is managed entirely by students. The decision marked the birth of a new method of teaching and learning that continues to appreciate in financial assets and also to reap generous dividends in experiential and interpersonal learning. These educational dividends are reinvested in the Fund, as the community grows increasingly collaborative, and the Fund’s success attracts talented students to Bryant University.

Finance Professors David Louton, Ph.D., Peter Nigro, Ph.D., and Hakan Saraoglu, Ph.D., had a vision: create “a mini career experience,” where students would get professional training in an academic setting through a student-managed investment fund. The specific plan eluded them, however. Two previous pitches to the Bryant Board of Trustees had been rejected in the early 2000s, so they had a difficult road to navigate. Louton decided to talk to portfolio managers and analysts working in the industry in order to figure out how to shape such an experience. He sought the perspective of insiders about the tools and skills that are essential for a successful career in investments.

NETWORKING FOR KNOWLEDGE

Louton turned to Bryant alumni for answers – Rodney Baillargeon ’76 and Michael Fisher ’67 . Each alumnus provided him with the contact information of several portfolio managers and security analysts. Baillargeon had contacts in Providence and Boston, and Fisher, in New York and Chicago. Louton asked these professionals about their daily activities and learned about the obstacles and challenges they faced.

As part of his research, Louton spoke with 24 financial professionals in four states. Each consisted of a 90-minute telephone or in-person interview, with most including follow-up emails and phone conversations. Through this, he was able to uncover effective methods to inject professional realism into the classroom.

He determined that rather than just one class managing the Fund, it would be two classes – each taking on a different function in the financial services industry. In order to be an Archway Investment Fund manager, students have to interview for the role of securities analyst. If accepted, they'd do what securities analysts do for the first semester: recommend stocks. If successful, they would be “promoted” to portfolio manager for the next semester, and their focus would be selecting and executing investment strategies.

Louton next tapped then-students Kristen D. (Stein) Goldberg ’05 , Noah S. Ahmed ’05 , and Peter S. Corvi ’05 , who wanted to help design the Fund program, to conduct interviews of students interested in participating in the securities analysis class.

REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE

The two-course program is designed to provide students with real-world experience, first by simulating what they’ll encounter to get a job, and then by giving them real money to manage as practice for what they’ll actually do on the job. The C.V. Starr Financial Markets Center (FMC), which receives real-time news, information, and data, transferred by live feeds through Reuters 3000, a financial trading system used by some of the largest financial organizations in the world, serves as their classroom and base of operations. Both the securities analysis and portfolio management classes occur concurrently in the semester so that the two classes can meet each week to present their ideas to each other, debate issues, and hear guest speakers. In both classes, students conduct themselves as if they were already at work. The students in securities analysis make recommendations to buy or sell stock that must be approved by a portfolio management committee.

Louton credits Fisher (currently chair of Bryant’s Board of Trustees) and Baillargeon – who became the first members of the Fund’s advisory board – and the professionals who generously gave of their time with playing an essential role in promoting what he calls the “on-ramp to career success” feel of the Fund.

GREATER THAN THE SUM OF THEIR PARTS

His experience in nurturing the Archway Investment Fund into the robust program it is today has stayed with Louton. One of the most satisfying experiences, he says, has been “working with top-notch students in high-performance teams that are more valuable than the sum of their parts, and then staying in touch with them after graduation.” The Fund’s culture of friendly competition is kept in check by a superseding objective of partnership, a dynamic that Louton, who is now serving as Associate Dean of the College of Business, refers to as “steel sharpening steel.”

Highlights over the past eight years:

  • Archway students have attended professional conferences in Boston, Dayton, and New York.
  • In the fall of 2009, A. Can Inci, Ph.D., began teaching the Securities Analysis class. He joined Bryant after serving as a professor at the University of Florida and receiving his doctorate in Finance from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
  • In the spring of 2009, the Bryant team captured first place in the Chartered Financial Analyst Investment Research Challenge (CFAIRC). This success was an affirmation of the talent of Fund students and of advisers Inci and Louton, as well as the coaching of Peter Phillips, CFA, CAIA, of the Providence Society of Financial Analysts. Phillips is now director of research at Washington Trust Investors.
  • Archway Investment Fund students attend the Global Asset Management Education (GAME) Forum in New York City.
  • Maura Ann Dowling, CFP ® , was the first financial professional to teach in the Archway Investment Fund program. Now that Louton is Associate Dean of the College of Business, Dowling serves as the Fund’s primary adviser.

Get caught up in the excitement! If you are in the investments field and would enjoy helping Bryant students gain valuable experience, please contact Maura Dowling at (401) 232-6000, x20207 or e-mail her at mdowling@bryant.edu . You can choose your level of participation.