Investing in the Future
By Chad Osborne
SMIPO Fund helps future financiers with college dollars and cents
As green numbers and accompanying upward-pointing arrows hurried across the stock ticker inside Kyle Hall’s financial trading room, a small group of seasoned student investors took note. They made sound investment decisions based on knowledge absorbed from their vast experiences as members of Radford University’s Student Managed Investment Portfolio organization.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) had just topped 23,000 that day for the first time in its 121-year history. As investors around the world scurried in reaction to the news, so did members of this elite studentmanaged club, known colloquially on campus as SMIPO.
“As the Dow moved upward to new records over the past several weeks, students also watched the SMIPO portfolio do the same, ending at $1.526 million at the end of the day on Wednesday, reaching a new alltime high for the portfolio, said SMIPO faculty advisor Steve Beach. “The running ticker in the trading room displays the DJIA and the components of the index, so they were watching closely as it snuck over 23,000 for the first time on Tuesday, then returned to stay over that benchmark on Wednesday.”
Beach and fellow Finance Professor Clarence Rose founded SMIPO in 2002 to provide students with the opportunity to gain real-world investment and portfolio management experience. The organization gives its members practical experience in the management and decision-making processes of a corporate-structured organization by participating in hands-on management of the funds.
“SMIPO is such an exciting part of my day because I get to apply every piece of knowledge I have learned throughout my three years at Radford University into an experience that benefits myself as well as other students at the University,” said SMIPO president and senior accounting and finance major Katie Sherbin ’18. “There just aren’t enough words to describe the experience and joy I get from investing for the Radford University endowment. It is an experience you only wish you could have more of.”
George Kite ’03 was one of the original members of SMIPO. He helped grow the organization from its roots, when the Radford University Foundation provided a jump-start with an initial $100,000.
“It was really good experience for me,” Kite said. “We met every week, for no college credit, and we held each other accountable and we made investment decisions with real money.
“We created an organizational structure, hired people to be in SMIPO, did the marketing, managed the human resources component and got some real hands-on experience prior to graduation.”
SMIPO is such an exciting part of my day because I get to apply every piece of knowledge I have learned throughout my three years at Radford University into an experience that benefits myself as well as other students at the University."
Kite credits his SMIPO experiences for helping him land his first job out of college. He now serves as chief financial officer at Call Federal Credit Union in Richmond, which has $400 million in assets. “My role in the organization was critical for my experience and becoming employed. Today, I still draw upon those lessons I learned as part of the organization,” he said.
Kite also serves on the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors, where he sees firsthand the intense effort put forth by current SMIPO members as they manage the organization’s $1.5 million portfolio.
“It gives me a great sense of pride at every foundation meeting and investment board meeting to see the students doing so well,” he said.
The commitment of time and energy SMIPO students devote “to learning their craft and managing funds for the Radford Foundation is incredible,” Beach said. “Attracting and retaining the best and brightest students for investment management is a top priority for the organization and the College of Business and Economics.”
It’s one reason Kite and others are building upon the SMIPO Scholarship Fund.
“If SMIPO students can focus more on learning instead of stressing over whether they can continue one more semester, I’m happy to be a part of it,” Kite said. “I didn’t come from a family of money, and most students who attend Radford University and go through SMIPO have that same story.
“So, I’m happy to give back in hopes of supporting that organization so these students can flourish and be successful in their careers. And I hope, one day, they give back to the University and pay it forward in that regard.”
SMIPO students typically volunteer between 60 and 150 hours a semester and receive the vast amount of their scholarship support from other areas of the University. The group annually travels to conferences and competitions in such places as Chicago and New York City. It was in New York that they earned the top fund ranking for the Value Fund Category — Undergraduate Division at the 2016 Global Asset Management Education Forum.
The successes have been “outstanding,” Kite said.
“It brings a lot of notoriety to SMIPO and to Radford University,” he continued. “It makes me feel good as an alumnus and former member of SMIPO that these students are going and winning and placing very well in national competitions against very well-known schools and investment programs. It is something we all should be very proud of.”
For SMIPO students, “scholarships can mean so much on many levels,” Beach said. “They can allow members to stop working off-campus and devote themselves to this professionaldevelopment activity. Many successful careers have been launched from this program.”