Just before COVID-19 forced the country into lockdown last March, Walsh’s student-led investment team (SMIP) researched and made investments in several stocks. One of those stocks was Intuitive Surgical, which was “pitched” by then graduating senior, Mitch Ault. That purchase became an educational experience into the realm of behavioral finance and investor behavior.

“The stock plummeted and some of the students got very nervous. Several wanted to sell, and that’s not unusual. That’s the psychology of the stock market,” said Associate Professor of Finance Dr. James Falter CFP®, CFA. “People see losses in the short term, and they aren’t thinking about long term benefits of holding onto a good investment. But over the next eight months, the stock rebounded and that stock actually went up 45%.  Our SMIP students learned an important lesson on behavioral finance and the psychological influences that can affect market outcomes.”

For students with an interest in finance, Walsh offers graduate-level intensive training for undergraduate students to participate in real-time stock market trading, financial analysis and portfolio management. These unique programs include Walsh’s on-campus Student Managed Investment Portfolio (SMIP), annual participation in Cleveland’s CFA Global Investment Research Challenge and the more recent designation as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute University Affiliation.

“We are actually one of only a few universities in Ohio that has earned a CFA Institute University Affiliation designation with our undergraduate program. Through this affiliation, we are also able to award four annual student scholarships for the CFA Level 1 Exam, which can be costly for students just out of college,” said Dr. Falter. “It is these opportunities that help to set Walsh apart from other undergraduate business programs and are very attractive for students who are interested in financial analysis and portfolio management.”

On February 26, a team of Walsh finance students will also compete in the CFA Society of Cleveland’s Global Investment Research Challenge. This is the twelfth year that Walsh has participated in the annual competition, which tests the analytic, valuation, report writing and presentation skills of university students. Walsh University's team has consistently performed well in the competition, earning back-to-back second place honors the past two years. 


CFA Global Investment Research Challenge 2020 Team, Second Place Honors

Students work in teams to research and analyze a publicly traded company. Each team writes a research report on their assigned company with a buy, sell, or hold recommendation and then defends their analysis to a panel of industry professionals.

Besides offering students a real-world experience in financial analysis, the competition also provides an opportunity for students to network with some of the top professionals in their field, including team mentor Nicholas Perini, CFA Portfolio Manager and Vice President of Beese Fulmer Private Wealth Management. Perini has served as Walsh’s team advisor for several years, working directly with Walsh students to offer valuable insight and guidance. A team consists of three to five members and may include undergraduate and graduate students. The winning team will advance to the Americas Regional of the CFA Institute Research Challenge in Chicago in April.

Announced in 2013, the Student Managed Investment Portfolio (SMIP) has afforded students from all majors an opportunity to participate in hands-on tradition in the world financial markets using gift funds donated for that specific purpose by alumnus Ed Klekota ’71 and Walsh Board Chair E. Jeff Rossi. The program is open to undergraduate and graduate level students from all majors and provides an edge in the competitive job market of Wall Street investing. This year, 26 students are participating in SMIP from a variety of majors including business, accounting, computer science, political science and government.

“Our student investors are learning the profession, including research and understanding that goes into the stock market.  We are not speculating or gambling,” said Dr. Falter, SMIP Advisor. “We’ve structured the groups that resemble real-world portfolio managers including sector managers who specialize in technology, health, finance, energy or consumer staples, et.al. The student managers conduct research and then present to the entire group. We are more focused on long-term performance, research and analysis, before we buy and sell stocks.”

Students also learn about ethics and social responsibility of investing. Just as professional portfolio managers will create an investment policy statement for a client, Dr. Falter worked with Walsh’s students on an investment policy that mirrors Walsh’s Catholic values and moral ethics.

“There are certain stocks that we will not invest in because they contradict the moral foundation of the Catholic Church,” said Dr. Falter. “Our students learned very quickly that you have to abide by those ethical parameters in evaluating possible investments. Students are learning how to use analytical tools to assess stock equity, diversification and risk management. They are learning to be professional portfolio managers.”