Student Club with Real Money

Shelsea Deravil

     The UC Investment club began as two students who learned about the stock market through stock simulation games; the winner of the game would receive a Wawa gift card. In 2015, Johnathan Myers ’19 devised a plan to get more students involved and create an opportunity to learn about the markets in a more engaging way.

     During the 2016-2017 school year, Myers, who is a copy editor for the “Grizzly,” worked to get donors to give money and recruit new members. According to the club’s advisor, Dr. Deacle, Associate Professor of Business and Economics and Department Chair, “Two years ago, some of the clubs’ leaders, including Johnny Myers (class of ’19) and Anthony Chang (class of ’17), asked the college’s vice president of finance, Annette Parker, for $2,000 to start an actual portfolio. She declined the request, but arranged for the clubs’ leaders to present before board of trustees’ endowment committee. After that presentation, one of the trustees, the Rev. Dr. Harold Smith (class of ’55), donated $5,000 of his own money to the club to begin managing a live fund.”

     This year the fund is off to a great start, welcoming its first two female members and naming Myers  president. Plus, this is the first school year in which the club will count as a one-credit course. “Since that initial donation, we have developed a set of strategies for investing, developed a network of alumni and administrators who are supporting us in these efforts, taken (or will soon take) some excellent field trips to meet real-world investment managers, created a newsletter, and published semi-annual prospectuses,” Dr. Deacle explained.

In total, the fund has “attracted a total of $22,000 in donations. Our annualized rate of return on investments has been 11.8%, and our fund’s value now stands a little below $25,000. In other words, our students’ investment choices have raised a little under $3,000 for the college in about one-and-a-half years of active fund management,” according to Dr. Deacle.

     With the establishment of the Student Investment Fund, Myers and the fund’s advisor, Dr. Deacle, worked to make the club a one-credit course where the students can manage two portfolios. The establishment of the class will ensure that it continues to provide opportunities for students interested in investments.

     The Student Investment Fund “has a lot of potential,” Myers explained, “[this isn’t something] like high school—it’s a lot more professional.” The fund wouldn’t be where it is today without the help of Harold C. Smith, an Ursinus alum who graduated in 1955. Smith admired the work that the students were doing to learn about the complexity of the markets.

     “The Rev. Dr. Smith had begun investing in stocks when a student at Ursinus and, in a remarkable career, became both an ordained minister and the manager of the YMCA’s pension fund. He believed that investing is an excellent way to learn about the world and can be channeled for the betterment of society,” according to Dr. Deacle.

     The one-credit course that Dr. Deacle and Myers created, “Finance 001,” is for students who are interested in learning about and doing more research on the stock market. The course is rigorous and encourages students to learn about the markets through experiential learning rather than the traditional classroom setting. The fund is an amazing opportunity for students who want to learn about the job of professional institutional investors. The class also hopes to work more closely with the Ursinus community and help all students learn about the markets and investing. Getting the word out about the fund will allow students to have better insight on how UC receives the funding  that it gives to the on-campus organizations, clubs and sports.

     The class has a more senior portfolio, the Harold C. Smith Endowment Portfolio. The Harold C. Smith Endowment Fund creates revenue on behalf of Ursinus to help grow the size of the endowment and provide amenities to the college. The goal of the portfolio is to pay a percentage of its value to Ursinus to cover various expenses. “[The endowment is an] institutional investment,” says Myers. “The point of the portfolio is to mimic the investment requirements that an endowment portfolio would manage…. It  helps Ursinus  preserve its purchasing power in perpetuity.”

     Dr. Deacle has three goals for the fund. He hopes, “to use the fund as a learning tool for students who want to simply understand financial markets better, prepare for a career in finance, or both; organize a segment of the fund so that it maintains a fairly stable value (before donations) while generating steady income that we can give back to the college; increase the demographic and viewpoint diversity of our fund.”

     “Ursinus is a great school,” adds Myers, and this can be reflected in the financial education that the students receive from the club. With the investment fund, any student interested in investments can “be pushed into doing things that they thought they couldn’t do.”