Twenty years ago, former WSU finance professor Rick Sias started the Cougar Investment Fund, a hands-on investment program, according to some finance graduates from Carson College of Business, which primarily benefited their career opportunities.

Sias based the idea of ​​the Cougar Investment Fund (CIF) on similar programs at other universities, such as Cornell, where MBA students often managed funds. However, his vision was to give WSU undergraduates a chance to develop skills in decision-making, financial advice and investing in a real-world setting, which would make them more competitive in job interviews. ‘hiring.

He created a one-year class that continues to thrive under the guidance of Professor Mario Reyes.

Many aspects of the original structure of the CIF class remain: two students act as portfolio managers, organize sector and stock market reports and monitor the fund’s investments. The other students become sector analysts. Students make investment recommendations for the University’s $ 4.6 million CIF with the goal of outperforming the Standard & Poor (S&P 500) while maintaining comparable risk.

Over time, Carson’s student investors have consistently outperformed the S&P 500, and in 2017, they beat it by a sizable 1.4% margin, topping $ 3 million.

“The Cougar Investment Fund has been and continues to be the centerpiece of our fundraising program,” said David Whidbee, chair of the college’s finance and management science department. “We are fortunate that the university has collaborated with us on this opportunity, and we are especially grateful to Karen Kellerman, Senior Director of Treasury Investments at WSU. Without the time and energy she devotes to us, the CIF would not be possible.

“With the establishment of the Tom and Linda Nihoul Bloomberg Financial Lab in 2020, the CIF class, Carson finance majors and faculty have direct access to real-time news, financial and economic data, and other learning tools. benchmark within the industry, ”Reyes said. “WSU is part of a group of institutions around the world that provides Bloomberg technology to better prepare finance students for global careers.”

Classroom experience leads to lasting friendships

Close-up of Stacee Kratovil
Stacee Kratovil

Former student Stacee Kratovil (’11) was CIF portfolio manager during her final year in the Carson finance program. She landed her first job three weeks before graduating as a portfolio manager associated with BMO Harris Bank, a wealth management company.

“The Cougar Investment Fund laid the foundation for my understanding of capital markets,” said Kratovil, who is now a private wealth advisor and vice president of US Bank Private Wealth Management. “I have provided my student reports to all of my potential employers. When I was hired, my manager said my writing skills and work examples set me apart. Without these industry specific projects, I don’t know if I would have had a relevant example of my talent to share.

Kratovil said the course was by far the best academic experience she had at WSU, one in which she built lasting relationships with her peers, which was a huge plus for her entry into the labor market.

Classmates Hayden Wieck and Kennan Adams, both 2014 graduates, were portfolio managers during their CIF experience and became close friends in the process. “Today Kennan is an expert in alternative assets, and I’m fortunate to have him on my phone whenever I need his ideas,” said Wieck.

Close-up of Hayden Wieck
Hayden wieck

Wieck, who works as a portfolio manager for Fulcrum Capital, felt a spark to pursue a career in portfolio management during the CIF class. This interest led to an internship with the Foreign Exchange team at Russell Investments after graduation. He then obtained the Chartered Financial Analyst designation before joining Fulcrum.

CIF Class Kick Begins Students’ Transition From Academia To Financial World

The most valuable skill Wieck mastered in the CIF class was articulating an investment recommendation, he said. “I will never forget when I stumbled upon expressing my belief in a recommended purchase. I spent too much time focusing on the smallest details and was unable to articulate the core of my investment thesis to the group.

Learning to convey the complex details of a recommendation as well as the bigger picture has been part of his career.

“This framework prepared me to communicate investment recommendations to my colleagues,” he said. “The course strengthened my skills, so I was able to add great value to my team when I started at Russell.”

Close-up of Kennan Adams
Kennan adams

Adams, senior investment analyst and product specialist at Silver Creek Capital Management, said the CIF was the program most applicable to his profession.

“An added benefit of being a portfolio manager was to present frequent market updates to my peers, which required me to familiarize myself with the vernacular of the industry,” he said. . “It was a vital skill to join a team of seasoned professionals. “

Adams joined Silver Creek as a junior analyst right after graduation and spent two years underwriting hedge funds and private credit strategies before focusing entirely on the company’s hedge fund portfolio and obtain the title of chartered alternative investment analyst.

“Discretion over real dollars is a great way to apply learning in the classroom. The CIF is a very productive use of students’ time and gives them the opportunity to start their transition from academia to finance, ”he said.


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