Through Widener’s Money Club, students manage a robust investment fund, gaining invaluable experience in the financial world.
In 2014, senior business major Ryan Paul faced a daunting task – go before the Widener University Board of Trustees and ask for $100,000.
Paul, along with classmate Anthony Imbalzano, and their professor, Monty Mansur, had just 15 minutes to make the case for why Widener’s Student Managed Investment Fund – worth $60,000 – deserved the infusion of cash.
“We had to get all the data together, how well we were doing, a complete prospectus,” remembers Paul.
Ultimately, the trio didn’t get the $100,000. Instead, the Board opted to transfer $500,000 into the fund.
“The decision came after I graduated, but I knew it was going to be a good thing,” said Paul, who says the experience helped prepare him for, and ultimately land, his current job as a treasury analyst with Comcast in Philadelphia.
Paul left the investment fund in good hands. Overseen by students in Widener’s Money Club, the fund is worth $730,000 today. But its greater value lies in the real-world experiences it provides students.
Money Club members manage the fund’s large cap, mid cap and mutual funds. They analyze stocks, develop proposals, and present buy/sell recommendations to an advisory board of professionals who provide investment guidance.
“There are very few opportunities like this in any other university. It was a major reason I chose Widener’s program,” said junior Ryan Yost, a finance major and portfolio manager for the large cap fund, which invests in such giants as Apple and Boeing.
The Money Club is not an exercise in hypotheticals. Students invest real money, subject to market volatility.
“Students experience the joy of making money and what happens when you make bad investment decisions. They learn from it so they don’t make the same mistakes,” said Professor Babatunde Odusami, co-advisor of the Money Club with Mansur.
It can be nerve-racking at times, but the students say the career preparation is worth it.
“The club gives me the opportunity to become an expert in researching and analyzing financial information,” said junior DeShawn Ivey. “It gives me the opportunity to visually see what we learn as students in the classroom while getting the hands-on experience.”
Aside from financial skills learned, students also realize the importance of teamwork, leadership and effective communication.
“I’ve started investing a lot of my own personal time learning best practices and how the industry works,” said junior Jonah Boileau, portfolio manager of the mid cap fund. “That has made me more marketable as a potential employee.”
Paul agrees. His experience with the fund, and presenting to Widener’s trustees, boosted his confidence and underscored the importance of going the extra mile.
“I spent long hours putting the presentation together for the Widener trustees. Through that I learned that you can’t do the bare minimum,” said Paul. “If you want something you have to work for it.”
So when Paul applied for a position at Comcast, he seized the initiative and presented the company with an analysis of its debt structure. Comcast hired him.
Paul came back to Widener to earn his MBA, driven to return by the success of the fund and the university’s new state-of-the-art finance lab.
Equipped with a dozen computer terminals featuring Bloomberg Professional service, and other industry-standard programs, the technology enables students to manage the fund and prepares them for what they’ll encounter professionally.
“The lab has really transformed the school,” said Mansur. “We’ve had 150 students go through Bloomberg certification, and a number have gotten internship offerings because of it.”
The Money Club is open to students in all majors. The group also holds career-building and networking events, participates in competitions, and organizes guest speakers and trips to major financial institutions.