Honoring 10 Years of Investing in Students

KENNESAW, Ga. | Mar 6, 2020

KSU’s Student Managed Investment Fund opens doors to jobs

Since its launch ten years ago, the members of Kennesaw State University’s Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF) have nearly tripled the fund’s value, won numerous awards and leveraged their experiences to open doors to jobs at major businesses in the financial industry.

Housed within the Michael J. Coles College of Business, SMIF gives undergraduate students supervised control over a real six-figure investment portfolio. The students learn to conduct fundamental analysis on publicly traded equities and make investing decisions based on that research. Their conservative investing philosophy has seen the fund grow from $100,000 to $270,000.

“The real crowning achievement of this organization isn’t the fund’s growth,” said Govind Hariharan, faculty advisor and chairman of the board of directors. “It’s in the student job placements and the growth of their professional careers. Our students have gone on to do great things and continue to grow.”

Student Managed Investment Fund

Nicholas Busson, a finance major and the fund’s chief operations officer, who is headed to work for Wells Fargo when he graduates in May, said the fund has taught him as much about professionalism as it has finance.

“Out of all the career-readiness programs I’ve been in, I would say this one was absolutely the best experience for that,” Busson said. “During our meetings, we have industry advisors who sometimes fly in from out of state. Being able to talk to people who have been in the field for 20, 30 or 40 years and explain your thought processes is a significantly important learning experience.”

SMIF began to grow shortly after it was launched with $100,000 in investment capital provided by Henssler Financial.

“At Henssler, we have a longstanding commitment to educating the next generation of leaders in the financial industry,” said Gene Henssler, president of the firm. “KSU already had many outstanding students and faculty in their financial education programs. The Student Managed Investment Fund is the bridge that they needed to transition into their careers.”

He added that when Hariharan and former Coles College Dean Tim Mescon initially approached him in 2006 about supporting the fund, he considered it “a no-brainer.” The group’s meeting space – complete with computer terminals loaded with financial analysis software – is named the Henssler Trading Room.

SMIF helps bring Kennesaw State students to the attention of financial industry recruiters. Students not only gain experience researching companies to invest in, they also develop their leadership skills.

While other universities run student-managed funds as clubs or academic classes, Kennesaw State’s group is an LLC, or limited liability company, with students holding leadership positions. Most are active for two years.

“Our underlying mission has always been that the best way to learn something yourself is to teach others to do it,” Hariharan said. “Most of the training juniors receive comes directly from the seniors. When they graduate, most of our students come out ready to pass the chartered financial analyst exam. They receive excellent training and develop a lot of confidence.”

The scope of the fund’s activities has grown since 2010, especially in providing students with opportunities to learn from working finance professionals. Representatives from companies like Henssler Financial, WellStar Health System, Bloomberg, Home Depot, Voya Financial and others are on the fund’s advisory board, while senior executives from Truist, Blackrock, UPS and JPMorgan Chase have hosted career conversations with students.

In addition, the organization continues to compete in annual investment competitions. The fund won the best portfolio award at the 2014 Global Asset Management Education Forum and took first place in the 2019 SMIFC Kaplan Poster Session Competition. It also placed first at the CFA Research Challenge Southern Classic in 2017 and again in 2020.

Each of these initiatives is in service to the fund’s ultimate goal of securing students jobs in the financial industry. Alumni of the program can be found working for Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and UPS.

“We’ve had the pleasure of working with many of these students either as interns or employees,” Henssler said. “It’s easy to tell when someone was a member of the KSU SMIF because of their professionalism, strong skills and great work ethic. It is heartwarming to see them go on to such successful careers. The investment in these students has been its own best return.”

As the fund celebrates 10 years of promoting student success, Hariharan is setting new goals. Plans include establishing an alumni association and growing the fund to $500,000 within the next five years through strong investments and donor gifts, with the intention of creating additional student opportunities.

“The performance of our graduates has already inspired companies to hire from us because they see our alumni doing well,” Hariharan said. “We anticipate exponential growth in the recognition of the quality of our graduates.”

The fund capped off a decade of active trading recently with an awards ceremony for almost 100 students, alumni and industry partners at The Buckhead Club in Atlanta.

Erica Moody, junior business intelligence developer with Intercontinental Exchange and recipient of the outstanding alumni award, moderated a panel discussion with Marc Lasry, co-founder and CEO of Avenue Capital and co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Dennis Lockhart, former president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

During the ceremony, 11 current and former students received awards for accomplishments spanning the fund’s 10-year history. These included awards for the best stock selection, outstanding alumni, student leadership, outstanding analyst, best recruit, best sector leadership and marketing excellence. Awards were also presented to industry and faculty advisors, while UPS received the best employer award.

Henssler was honored with the group’s 10th anniversary award in recognition of his contribution to SMIF’s creation and continued success.

– Patrick Harbin

Photos by David Caselli

Related Stories

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.