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$14-million Student Investment Fund celebrates 25 years of hands-on learning

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Mar 13, 2024

Category: UNB Fredericton

The University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) ground-breaking Student Investment Fund (SIF) celebrates 25 years of hands-on experiential learning, seeing its capital grow from $1 million in 1998 to over $14 million today.

A highly competitive program within the Centre for Financial studies, the SIF has students work with a professional portfolio manager to develop research and analytical skills that help them make smart investment decisions. Vestcor (then the New Brunswick Investment Management Corporation) was the initial collaborator for the SIF, joined later by SEAMARK Asset Management when UNB added an additional $2.5 million to the fund. The SIF has fostered financial titans from Bay Street to the City of London, as well as right here in New Brunswick with graduates finding a home with founding partner Vestcor Inc and other Atlantic Canadian-based companies.

Colin Ryan (BBA’02), the head of technology for investment banking at CIBC Capital Markets, is a graduate of the program. He hosted his fellow alumni and new crop of SIF participants at a 25th anniversary gala on February 29 at the CIBC offices in Toronto.

“I think accounting and understanding financial statements are probably the most important skills required to be a successful investment banker,” Ryan said, reflecting on the skills he learned in the SIF program. “The team at the SIF did a good job of creating and fostering an environment that closely resembled the real world.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by fellow alum Feiber Omana (BBA’06), former senior vice president of Shaw Communications.

“Keep your grades up, this is still the most common filter applied by most employers for recent graduates,” Omana said when asked what advice he’d give to current SIF students.

“Actively participate in the SIF program, the more you put in, the more you will get out. Overprepare for the CFA Level I – passing it will give you an edge compared to other applicants. Be persistent in your job search; after all, you just need one offer letter to land your first and hardest-to-get job in your finance career!”

Through the dot-com bubble, to the 2007-2008 financial crisis and more recently the ongoing turmoil of the Covid mitigation measures on the economy, the SIF provides lots of learning opportunities for students to get real-world, hands-on experience navigating the, at times, choppy waters of investment banking.

Once those analytical skills are honed, SIF students put their knowledge to the test, participating in investment banking competitions across North America.

Some of those competitions include the R.I.S.E. (Redefining Investment Strategy Education) Symposium hosted by the University of Dayton in Ohio, a student investment conference and competition; the Rotman International Trading Competition at the University of Toronto’s BMO Financial Group Finance Research and Trading Lab; and the Van Berkom Small Cap Case Competition at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University. The team won the 2021 Chicago Quantitative Alliance Challenge, the Atlantic CFA Ethics challenge in 2022 and the CFA Atlantic Research challenge this year.

Image: The SIF students in the BBA program that recently placed first in the Atlantic CFA Institute Research Challenge in Halifax (L-R): Patrick Doyle, Ryan Hebert, Urvashi Sharma, Adebukanla Fabamwo and Alex Sturge.

The idea for the SIF was initiated by Glenn Cleland, who participated in a similar investment fund during his years as a student at Texas Christian University. At the time, Cleland was an employee with the New Brunswick Investment Management Corporation (now Vestcor, Inc.), which provided the initial $1 million in capital used to get the fund underway in 1998. Initially the program was taught by UNB faculty of management finance professors Eben Otuteye (MA’82), Gopalan Srinivasan and Muhammad Rashid.

In 2002 Cleland joined the UNB faculty of management where he went on to become the founding director of UNB’s Centre for Financial Studies and became a full-time instructor for the SIF. He received the UNB Distinguished Service Award in 2008.

In addition to facilitating the trips to various competitions, Cleland made sure the SIF participants made great memories visiting some of investment banking’s sacred spaces.

Brian Bagnell (BBA’08), the director of commodities and capital markets at Advantage Energy, recalls one of his favourite memories of attending the CFA Investment Research Challenge in New York City.

“We got to ring the opening bell for the NASDAQ and our pictures were displayed in Times Square.”

For Jordan Russell (BBA’14), a financial modelling specialist with NB Power, participation in the SIF allowed him to rub shoulders with some really big hitters, including an actual major league hitter.

“We went to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual meeting,” he said. “(SIF colleagues) Ramy Chikara (MBA’15), Danish Wasim (MBA’14), Keagan Marcus (BBA’10, MBA’14) and I got a last-minute opportunity to join Glenn Cleland, Joshua Ulrich (BBA’14) and Katrina McBride (BBA’14, JD’17) on their trip. We flew to Toronto and from there, drove to Nebraska!”

“We had a blast and learned so much from the Oracle himself, Warren Buffett. Icing on the cake, we sat directly behind (hedge fund manager) Bill Ackman and A-Rod (professional baseball player Alex Rodriguez).”

Banner image: Back row (L-R) Dr. Paul Mazerolle, President and Vice Chancellor, UNB; Glenn Cleland, SIF champion/former instructor and Founding Director of the Centre for Financial Studies, UNB; Brian Bagnell (BBA ’08 and SIF alumnus), Director Commodities & Capital Markets, Advantage Energy Ltd.; Don Wishart, President, Seamark Asset Mangement and Director, UNB Centre for Financial Studies; Colin Ryan (BBA ’02 and SIF alumnus), Head of Technology Investment Banking, CIBC Capital Markets; and Feiber Omana (BBA ’06 and SIF alumnus), Former Senior VP, Corporate Development & Strategic Planning, Shaw Communications. Front Row (L-R): Juliana Vo, Program Officer, Centre for Financial Studies, UNB; Dr. Devashis Mitra, Dean, Faculty of Management, UNB; and Liz Lemon-Mitchell, Director, Advancement and Operations, Faculty of Management, UNB.

UNB is a centre for experiential education connecting students with industry and the community, building a skilled, qualified workforce for tomorrow. Over the next four weeks, we will share stories of students deepening their learning outside the classroom, discovering their passions and making meaningful change in the world around them.