UW-Green Bay’s high impact learning experiences will level up this fall when students studying finance in the Austin E. Cofrin School of Business use real money to manage an investment fund.
The immersive experience, powered by charitable gifts to the Student Managed Investment Fund, is designed to replicate a professional firm and the variety of positions that support investing, said Kevin Jacklin, manager of the University’s new Willie B. Davis Finance Lab.
“This isn’t Monopoly money — you feel the impact of your decision,” said Don Hammond executive vice president at Sheboygan’s Mersberger Financial Group, a supporter and advisor to the program.
The program has a traditional fund and a fund following Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) guidelines, and students can participate in the program multiple times, said Mussie Teclezion, an associate professor of finance.
“We use the same software used in the industry. When done with the course, they will have a broader view of how to manage money and experience using different software used in the industry,” he said.
A diverse group of investment professionals serve on the fund’s advisory board, which provided input in designing the program and approving students’ fund decisions. Zach Mersberger, co-CEO, co-COO and advisor with Mersberger, said the fund provides students with a way to gain real world experience.
“I love being part of the group getting this started,” Mersberger said. “Students will report back about how the funds are doing. They will need to justify their rationale for why they invested in what they did.”
Jacklin described the experience as a journey from a sector analyst role, to industry leader or co-portfolio manager. “Students will initially present their investment ideas to the class for group reviews. If the group determines an investment should be approved, the student will then present their idea to members of our advisory committee for final approval and added to the fund,” he said.
Involvement with the fund will better prepare students for their future jobs, Hammond said. “My partners and I were interested in getting more financial professionals in the industry. After hearing about the investment lab, we knew supporting it would better prepare students coming into the profession,” he said.
Community involvement has been key to building the fund and the facilities to mimic real life scenarios, Jacklin said.
“It’s important for students to work with real money because they receive the added benefit of experience about what it’s like to put yourself on the line,” he said. “Simulations are a good starting point, but having the experience of selecting investments and being responsible for them is what the real world of investment entails.”