The energy among the Fox Fund students is palpable. Gathered in the Capital Markets Room at the Fox School of Business, the students don’t answer to textbooks or professors, but a much-more fickle master: the major stock exchanges in New York.
Students of the Fox Fund, which was introduced in 2012, meet three days a week for approximately 10 weeks. They do not receive academic credit for their work, nor are they financially compensated for their time. Learning how to evaluate and pitch companies for placement in a virtual portfolio, the students hope their practice leads to selection to the Owl Fund Seminar, a two-semester course in which the students manage real money – approximately $250,000 – in Temple University’s endowment expressly designated for this class.
According to Jonathan Beaulieu, a senior Finance major and former Chief Investment Officer of the William C. Dunkelberg Owl Fund, the students (mostly sophomores, with a few second-semester freshmen and first-semester juniors) aren’t playing the stock market. Instead, they’re developing the skills needed to successfully pitch a company to a room full of investors.
“What we’re doing is extremely difficult. Even professionals, if they’re right 51 percent of the time, they’re outstanding analysts,” Beaulieu said.
Beaulieu worked his way through the Owl Fund, from junior analyst to CIO, before he was tapped to bring along the program’s next generation. Volunteering his time, Beaulieu teaches a class of 30 Fox Fund students the process for identifying potentially underpriced stocks and analyzing the subsequent investment opportunity.
The students make full use of the specialized software within the Capital Markets Room, which includes Capital IQ, Morningstar, Bloomberg, in order to prepare their presentations. Pitching to both Fox Fund and Owl Fund members, the students support their presentation with a 10-page report that includes detailed charts and graphs.
“We’re trying to do what professionals do,” Beaulieu said. “This is more work than they’ll ever do for a class.”
The Fox Fund, Beaulieu emphasized, is a learning environment in which he combs through his students’ extensive reports for errors or omissions, and ensures they have identified the right aspects of the investment. The focus, he said, is not on the success of the stock investment or even the results of the students’ portfolio, but that they gain the conceptual knowledge needed to take intelligent risks and learn from past investment mistakes. The class also engages in a short question-and-answer session similar to one employed in the Owl Fund, designed to facilitate growth.
As a student-mentored experience, the Fox Fund’s students mirror the Owl Fund’s members. Divided into five economic sectors (healthcare, financials, energy, consumer markets and industrial/technology telecommunications), Owl Fund analysts work as mentors with their Fox Fund doppelgangers.
This hands-on guidance is crucial when deciding which students will advance to the Owl Fund, said Dr. Jonathan Scott, Director of Undergraduate Programs in Finance at the Fox School and Managing Director of the Owl Fund.
“Everyone is supportive of everyone else, but that doesn’t mean we won’t ask tough questions,” Scott said. “We build a community, but if someone in the Fox Fund doesn’t make sufficient progress, we won’t recommend them for the Owl Fund seminar.”
Part of that “sufficient progress” in the Fox Fund is acknowledging that outside work and an enterprising drive are necessities for successful Fox Fund students. Beaulieu, who joined the Owl Fund as a second-semester freshman, and whose decision to attend Temple University was influenced by his desire to work in the program, looks for the same drive in his students.
“Thrown into a very sink-or-swim environment, I really enjoyed that challenge,” Beaulieu said of his early years with the Owl Fund.
However, as a mentor to younger students who are interested in following in his footsteps, Beaulieu said the Fox Fund is necessary and that it would have been beneficial to learn in a no-pressure environment.
Cynthia Axelrod, Director of the Owl Fund and Assistant Professor of Finance, teaches the six-credit Owl Fund course. She said she values the work put in by Fox Fund students, and said it’s exactly what she would expect of her students in the Fox School’s Finance department.
“The Fox Fund students all show up hungry to learn,” Axelrod said. “That’s our recruiting ground. The Fox Fund allows our students to develop and sharpen their fundamental and analytical skills that enable them to succeed in the Owl Fund.”
If selected to the Owl Fund, students actively manage the Owl Fund Portfolio, which currently approaches $250,000. There are steep restrictions on these funds, which were donated to Temple University’s endowment specifically for management by the Owl Fund students. Students are held to the same standards as professional analysts and portfolio managers in charge of real money.
“Just because they’re students doesn’t mean the rules are easier,” Axelrod said. “In an era where 90 percent of professional money managers underperform their benchmark, the Owl Fund is beating the S&P 500 by 400 basis points. This is truly impressive, and a testament to the commitment and quality of our students.”
Matriculation through the Owl Fund and Fox Fund programs has given students a professional advantage, resulting in all Owl Fund associate analysts procuring strong summer internships in 2014, and senior members securing a job following graduation.
“If you look at the rest of the business school, I highly doubt it’s at 100 percent job or internship placement like that,” said Beaulieu, who has accepted a position at Aberdeen Asset Management.
Energized and motivated, the students look forward to the day when they might join Wall Street, answering to nothing but that opening bell.