A SWIFT Education
In the current market, new graduates interested in entering the fast-paced, competitive world of Wall Street may find themselves at a disadvantage. But thanks to the Sigmund Weis School of Business’ SWIFT program, students are gaining real-world financial know-how that will give them an edge in the job market.
The goal of SWIFT (Students: We’re Investing Funds Together) is to allow students to gain expertise in an industry and learn to track investments in a sink-or-swim environment where they are constantly being evaluated, much like they would be on Wall Street. The experience is provided by a series of courses that allow students to distinguish themselves in the classroom and then in a competitive work environment.
Any student who takes Corporate Finance is eligible to be invited into the program, says Byron Hollowell, assistant professor of finance and director of SWIFT. Students who show aptitude and enthusiasm are interviewed, and a group of 12 to 15 students is selected to take the next course in the sequence, Applied Finance I.
“When I received Dr. Hollowell’s e-mail about the extensive interviewing and criteria needed to even be considered, I knew it would be a lot of hard work. However, I was up to the challenge and knew my hard work and long hours would pay off,” says Catarina Manney ’10, a mathematics major who was accepted into the program, which is not exclusively reserved for business majors.
In Applied Finance I, students follow an industry throughout the semester and conduct a 16-stage analysis. “Applied I is really good grunt work to prepare you for Applied II,” says John D’Anna ’10, who majored in finance at Susquehanna.
The top students in this class are essentially promoted from analysts to portfolio managers representing a dozen industries in Applied Finance II. Using their industry expertise, students form recommendations, and after following 100 companies, they recommend four from each industry for investment.
Once the companies are selected, the students make preliminary presentations to other students and business school professors and final presentations to an investment advisory council composed of Susquehanna’s Vice President of Finance Mike Coyne; Alicia Jackson, dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business; and several business alumni. The council then evaluates the students’ recommendations and approves the stocks they will purchase.
Although the three-course sequence, beginning with Corporate Finance and continuing through Applied Finance I and II, was structured specifically for SWIFT and taught in previous years, the 2009–10 academic year marked the first in which funds were invested. It also marked the opening of the Student Investment Center, a technologically equipped trading room with its own stock ticker. Alumni support has funded software and database maintenance for the trading room, and the Student Government Association has provided a portion of the startup investment fund.
More than $150,000 is currently available for investment. Students will invest approximately 10 to 15 percent of the fund each year, and each new group of students will be responsible for managing the existing portfolios, as well as tracking new investments. Investments will be assessed over a four-year period, after which any profit earned from the SGA investment will be used to fund scholarships for the Global Opportunities (GO) program, the required cross-cultural experience that is now a part of the university’s Central Curriculum.
Hollowell also would like the Student Investment Center to become a year-round tool for use by the entire university. He said that he would like to see the Student Investment Center and SWIFT become a tool the entire university can use throughout the year. For example, Hollowell says, the investment club on campus could work with SWIFT participants, or students with an interest in research and publishing could study the program for potential topics.
Contributing writers to the People & Places section are Heather Cobun ‘10; Gerald S. Cohen, associate vice president for communications and chief communications officer; Stephanie Hines ‘04; and Charlotte Lotz ‘12.