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Chaifetz School Finance Students Build Investment Portfolio for $1.7 Million in Endowment Funds

The Chaifetz School’s Applied Portfolio Management course offers finance students the unique opportunity to manage investment decisions for a portfolio of more than $1.7 million of university endowment funds. Students conduct financial research and pitch investment opportunities to one another as part of the fall course, and, as of last semester, receive personal mentorship from top finance professionals in the area. 

Students in finance class
Students in the Chaifetz School's APM course manage investment decisions for a portfolio of over $1.7 million of university endowment funds. 

The diversified portfolio selected by the 2020 APM class following a semester of rigorous research and discussion includes investments in stocks from across sectors. The portfolio will hold the selected investments throughout 2021 until the next class of Applied Portfolio Management in Fall 2021reviews the portfolio and makes a final decision on what to include in the portfolio for another year.

According to senior Austin Junger, the course begins with a draft wherein “students select ‘watch stocks,’ which are stocks that are currently held in the APM portfolio.”

The stocks students select during the draft determine their assigned sector for the course.

“I chose Chipotle’s stock (CMG) during the draft, so for the rest of the semester I was designated as the Consumer Discretionary Analyst for the portfolio,” says Junger. “After that, our goal was to create research reports on our watch stocks, while also screening for other stocks within our sector that we believed were potentially stronger holdings for the portfolio.” 

As part of the course’s final project, students write and present research reports on four stocks. “At the end of the course, the class votes on all of the stocks analyzed to determine what changes should be made to the portfolio,” Junger says. 

With the introduction of a new industry mentor program in the fall of 2020, the students also benefited from regular guidance from current finance industry professionals who provided insights into current best practices they employ in the field.

While the practical experience the APM course provides has always been beneficial to students, the mentorship program has taken the class to a new level. Finance professor Thomas Doellman, Ph.D., believes the addition has made APM “one of the most unique courses we offer at the Chaifetz School.”

Professor Thomas Doellman teaching a class.
Dr. Thomas Doellman, professor of finance,  believes the mentorship program has made APM "one of the most unique courses we offer at the Chaifetz School."

The program has attracted mentors from Edward Jones, Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management, and Asset Consulting Group, with representatives from additional companies slated to join in 2021. 

One industry representative, Larry Pfeffer of Wells Fargo, is a Chaifetz School graduate who took the APM course when he was a student. He said the class “absolutely” prepared him for his future career in equity analysis. “It’s a good parallel to real-world experience,” he says. 

“Getting that actual experience of analyzing companies and recommending stocks is really important,” Pfeffer says. 

Pfeffer has enjoyed mentoring this year’s class of APM students, and believes the best insight he can provide comes from his years of experience. “You can read and you can know theory, but there’s still a lot to learn,” he says, adding that he believes the best way to learn equity analysis is by working in the field. 

APM students have also enjoyed the addition of mentors to the program. Junger calls the addition “an extremely valuable aspect of the APM course,” and believes that his coursework, coupled with his internship experience at Kennedy Capital Management, have allowed him to develop “a strong foundation in financial analysis.”

“The mentorship program allows students the opportunity to access valuable insights that their mentors have gained throughout their careers and utilize that expertise to strengthen not only their reports for the course, but also their understanding of the equity research process,” Junger says. 

“My mentor, Tom Janisch of Asset Consulting Group, was instrumental throughout the construction of my reports” Junger continues. “Mr. Janisch greatly assisted me in developing potential ideas for new stocks to analyze, challenged me to think critically about alternative scenarios that could affect the stocks’ performance and helped me view the bigger picture and the narrative surrounding my stock picks.”

Senior Kyle Burns, another member of this year’s APM cohort, says that the connections he’s made in the mentorship program have been outstanding.

“I think it’s been a great success,” he says, noting that he met with his mentor, C. Kevin Moore, every Wednesday during the fall semester. “Just getting that weekly feedback from your mentor--someone who’s high in his field--is another aspect of this class that’s hard to find anywhere else,” Burns says.