Learning for a cause

The Gator Student Investment Fund has been providing years of real-world experience for students interested in finance and helping them earn jobs at some of the most competitive firms in the industry. As the money in the fund continued to grow and be reinvested, GSIF leadership realized it was missing an important opportunity.

They decided that a portion of the $500,000 fund – which includes a recent $200,000 gift from Robert Cousin (MBA ‘95) – could be used to help others. On October 13, the fund kicked off its partnership with the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program, which supports low-income students who are the first in their families to attend college.

Starting in March 2018, the fund will make annual payments through an endowment-like structure that pays three percent of the portfolio value to the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program.

“The Florida Opportunity Scholars Program is a program that the students recognize is very valuable because it gives students who wouldn’t have the means to go to college an opportunity to do so,” said Finance professor Dr. Dave Brown, who is on the fund’s Investment Advisory Committee. “That’s the driving force.”

Portfolio Manager James Goyer added, “First-time college students can miss opportunities for their future. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen. Knowing that our hard work is helping this program adds more meaning to what we’re doing.”

GSIF is made up of 45 students and led by three portfolio managers – James Goyer, Johnny Ringo and Michael Stalder. They work as a team to manage the fund and gain experience in the application of financial modeling, valuation, fundamental research and portfolio optimization. Benchmarked to the S&P 500, the fund has outperformed it over time.

The experience can equate to a part-time job, as analysts spend approximately 20 hours per week working with the fund. It’s a realistic experience that mirrors what life as an asset manager will look like after graduation.

Employers in the finance industry have already taken notice of the fund. It has a 100% placement rate with graduates accepting jobs in investment banking, asset management and consulting. Students can learn about concepts in the classroom, but working with the fund gives them direct experience that helps ease the learning curve at the beginning of internships and full-time jobs.

Goyer, Ringo and Stalder have already accepted positions at Evercore Partners, which served as the advisory firm for Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods.

“The experiential learning while working in GSIF definitely made us competitive candidates in the job search,” Ringo said.

GSIF accepts applicants during their freshman and sophomore years with the intention that they’ll stay through their senior year. Over 100 applications come annually with only 5-10 being accepted. However, many are encouraged to return and apply again the following year.

Every year begins with two training programs, one for new analysts and one for returning analysts. The goals are simple – give the newcomers an understanding of the fund and refresh the returners so that everyone is on the same page.

“The thought process is that if we can get students in early, we can help them grow into leadership and mentorship roles,” Goyer said.

The fund accepts donations from alumni and friends, allowing growth for the fund and its impact through the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program.