By Susan Anderson
Since its founding more than a dozen years ago, St. Bonaventure University’s Students in Money Management (SIMM) has offered its members a breadth of experience and high degree of autonomy in managing a real-life investment portfolio.
From honing hard and soft skills to opening career doors, engagement with SIMM has resulted in student success — and its most active investors and co-founders, Christopher and Eileen (Madigan) Kinslow, couldn’t be happier.
“SIMM offers a very mature environment where students are trusted and tested,” said Eileen Kinslow, a 1986 St. Bonaventure graduate with a BBA in accounting. “It is real-life experience that is invaluable to their education.”
A premier offering in the School of Business, SIMM is an experiential learning program in which students in any major can learn about the investment process while helping to manage approximately $500,000 in cash, stocks, bonds and derivatives.
“It’s a lot of hard work by the students,” said Chris Kinslow, president of SNK Capital LLC, a boutique investment bank, and a 1985 Bonaventure graduate with a BBA in finance and an MBA in finance from Columbia University. “Once you put them in the driver’s seat, they thrive.”
While SIMM has been a group effort through the years, the Kinslows have fueled its success from day one.
An impromptu discussion during the alumni reunion in 2000 about how to connect alumni and students started the ball rolling. The Kinslows came up with the idea to donate money that students could then use to invest in and manage a stock portfolio, assuming responsibility for all gains and losses.
“When Chris pitched this idea to his friends and asked for donations, they did not hesitate,” said Eileen Kinslow. “Most are business majors and employed in financial jobs so they understood and were excited about a student-run investment fund.”
School of Business faculty members at the time Dr. Stephen Horan and Dr. Jeffery Peterson fully backed the initiative, along with then dean Dr. Michael Fischer. Dr. Horan designed the initial program through the help of the Kinslows and a half dozen other alumni investors.
SIMM launched in the fall of 2004, with six finance majors and $20,000 to invest. According to Chris Kinslow, the students first had to create the SIMM bylaws, which continue to be enforced today, before any investment was made.
In October 2006, the SIMM team pitched the program to the University Board of Trustees and based on their investment success, secured a $100,000 investment from the University.
Today there are more than 400 graduates of the program, about 50 members each semester and approximately $500,000 in real financial assets. Non-finance and non-business majors now have the opportunity to be part of the program in a variety of roles and responsibilities.
“At the time we started, this type of student fund wasn’t done on many other campuses,” Chris Kinslow said, noting that this distinction remains today. “What we have with SIMM is unique in that students have complete autonomy over the money and investments. They make all the trades and can be involved as early as freshman year.”
Under the direction of Dr. James Mahar, associate professor of finance, SIMM members explore portfolio management theory and then reinforce that theoretical knowledge by actively managing the investment portfolio. The program is available as a course for credit or as a club.
“Jim Mahar does a phenomenal job,” said Chris Kinslow. “He keeps his hands off and doesn’t impose his will other than teaching. I believe that his best ability is that he guides the students and lets them thrive or fail. He’s a great people manager.”
Samantha Lancour, a senior finance/accounting major from Hoosick Falls, N.Y., who serves as SIMM’s operations manager, appreciates the independence students have in the program
“I like that Dr. Mahar gives us the freedom to come up with new ideas and run class as we see fit. It helps us understand the responsibility of running a fund,” she said. “He is always there to give feedback or there for help, but it’s a great feeling to know that he believes we can all succeed on our own.”
Another important aspect of SIMM is the degree of student-alumni involvement. Students are encouraged to work with professionals in the industry in an effort to enhance their skills. In addition, a portion of the investment returns are used for philanthropic purposes, which adds a Franciscan dimension and promotes civic values in the students. To date, SIMM has donated approximately $12,000 back to the university and other charities.
Ryland Wiseman, Class of 2017, said that his years as a member of SIMM helped him land a position as an investment banking analyst with KeyBanc Capital Markets in New York City, a job he began immediately following graduation last May.
“Without a doubt, St. Bonaventure has one of the best investment clubs in the country,” said Wiseman, who earned a BBA in finance. “Not many other programs give students as young as freshmen the ability to enter the club and pitch an idea in their first semester.”
Wiseman said he will always rely on his St. Bonaventure education as his foundation.
“We are immensely proud that this program benefits the entire student body and has proved to not only prepare the students for the workplace but it gets them jobs,” said Eileen Kinslow.
“Students are the whole key,” Chris Kinslow added. “We enjoy working with them. All we ask is that they leave SIMM in better condition than when they got there.”
The university recently launched a crowdfunding site to help boost funding for SIMM, with the Kinslows and the SIMM Advisory Board offering a $16,250 challenge match. To join in the challenge, visit www.sbu.edu/SIMMChallenge. Donations will directly support the investment fund and the students’ capacity to make trades.
The SIMM Challenge runs now through October 31, 2017. To make a gift, or for more information, interested persons can contact Janet Glogouski, Advancement Officer, at (716) 375-4084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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