In finance education, the Red Hawk Student Managed Investment Fund is a game changer, which is exactly its purpose. Earning high marks from all involved, this advanced investments course for Finance majors at Montclair State University’s Feliciano School of Business immerses students into the world of investing.
“Working on the Red Hawk Student Managed Investment Fund is a hands-on, real-world experience,” says Ashton Corley, who will complete her MBA in December 2021. “The program gave me the opportunity to do the work, and through that I developed confidence in my abilities. As a result, I’m considering a double MBA in Business Analytics and Finance – and perhaps even a PhD.”
Students manage a live institutional portfolio to experience what it takes to work in investment management.
“We run this portfolio as part of the broader University endowment,” says Feliciano School of Business Finance Professor Michael G. Radin, who helped design and now leads the program.
“The Fund has a multi-asset mandate where students invest within and across broad asset classes such as global equities, equity sectors, fixed income and alternative assets,” Radin explains. “Students learn about various types of alternative strategies in the classroom and then research which funds they believe will be additive for inclusion in the Red Hawk portfolio. These are the same types of investment decisions made by large, sophisticated university endowments and pension funds.”
“Our school’s mission is to prepare students to thrive in a world of constant change. Our Student Managed Investment Fund program is a perfect vehicle for teaching discipline and responsiveness in the very real and dynamic context of the financial marketplace,” says Kimberly Hollister, dean of the Feliciano School of Business.
James W. Merli ’83, a member of the Montclair State University Foundation Board as well as the Feliciano School of Business Advisory Board, has been instrumental in steering the Fund and its reality-based model. “I wanted Montclair students to have a broader investing experience,” he says. “Real pension fund and endowment investing would never be restricted to analyzing just one type of asset.”
Merli, who retired as global head of Debt Syndicate and head of Global Finance Americas for Nomura Securities, is also an executive-in-residence and adjunct professor of the Feliciano School of Business. Merli engages members of the School’s Advisory Board to mentor students and act as a professional sounding board for students giving presentations at semester’s end. Donations to support the Fund add to the investment and have a direct impact in launching students on their investment journey and building their career know-how.
“Students come out of this program ready to compete against graduates of elite business schools,” adds Radin. “Their knowledge of investment analysis comes across in interviews. One of our graduates was hired by a very prestigious private equity firm and another landed a role at Goldman Sachs.”
Andres Villanueva ’19, a real estate and infrastructure private equity associate at CIM Group in Los Angeles, is among the Red Hawk Fund participants who are enjoying early success in their careers. “Being a part of this program was a very rewarding experience,” Villanueva says. “In my opinion, the Red Hawk Fund was the closest thing to a real-world experience a finance student could achieve at Montclair State. It created a solid base for understanding institutional investing and portfolio management and helped me develop an understanding of how institutional investors allocate their capital.”
Kishan Rana ’21, a portfolio monitoring and valuation analyst for the growth equity firm TCV, points out that the program also helps students develop their communication, presentation and overall business skills. “The collaborative work, the due diligence and the professional proposal are the quintessence of invaluable technical and soft skills and will help me tremendously as I begin my career,” he says.
The Red Hawk Fund is distinctive in its emphasis on continuity. “Our students engage in investment research throughout the semester and then make recommendations based on their work to an oversight board composed of experts in the finance arena, much like they do in other, similar programs,” Merli says. “However, at other institutions, the class re-starts its investment fund from a zero balance at the beginning of the term. At Montclair, each new cohort inherits the fund from the previous one, so that students can experience fund growth over time.”
“By setting the program up this way, students who have completed it stay engaged, they stay in touch,” Merli continues. “In fact, several former students dialed in to the spring 2021 presentation, just to see how the Fund was doing. After its sixth semester, the Fund is valued at just over $325,000. There is an enormous sense of pride and personal accomplishment among the program’s current, and former, participants.”
Engagement in the program with alumni and friends results in high returns in more than just the investment portfolio. As graduates find professional success, they are paving a path for each other into the competitive world of finance. “There is an ongoing relationship-building aspect that is benefitting our students in a very real, very lucrative way,” Radin points out.
Kevin Sherman ’19, who is now a structured finance analyst at Crédit Agricole CIB, credits the Fund with helping secure his first career position at MidRail LLC, a middle-market private equity firm. “The Red Hawk Fund served as a quasi-internship for me, opening doors to various roles on Wall Street,” he says.
The Red Hawk Student Managed Investment Fund program is a source of pride all around. “This course provides students with an outstanding opportunity to top off their finance education with a unique investment management experience that accelerates their preparedness for the real world of finance,” says Ronald J. Strauss, senior associate dean at the Feliciano School of Business. “Our entire faculty takes great pride in the success of the Red Hawk Fund course and is grateful to the University Foundation and donors who have made this program possible.”