Cal State Fullerton finance students in the applied investment program, Titan Capital Management (TCM), recently demonstrated their prowess in managing actual financial portfolios. On Feb. 26, a TCM team defeated their counterparts from top-level Southland schools, including USC, UCLA and Pepperdine University, in the Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) Institute Research Challenge. The competition tasked students with a detailed financial analysis of a major company before a panel of professional judges.
It’s the second year in a row that students of the Cal State Fullerton TCM program have won this competition, which is hosted by the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Los Angeles.
This year’s victory was particularly impressive when considering that the Titan team rarely, if ever, met in person, due to the virtual environment wrought by COVID-19.
A Program of Challenge and Success
Acceptance to the Titan Capital Management program is indicative of true financial talent. Before getting an opportunity to manage the real-funds investment portfolio, which benefits the CSUF Philanthropic Foundation and student programs, the aspiring financial professionals must undergo a rigorous selection process. This includes a written essay, development and defense of a company research report, panel interviews with faculty and student board members, and assessments on problem-solving and analytical abilities.
The process ensures that students, who manage equity, fixed income or mixed portfolios, have what it takes to thrive in today’s competitive and high-tech investment management and financial analysis fields.
“The key to the success of TCM is that it’s a highly experiential program,” says Jeff Van Harte ’80 (finance), chairman, chief investment officer and co-founder of Jackson Square Partners, and the donor responsible for the TCM program. “The students are applying theory that they’ve learned to real-world money situations.”
Two or three students are assigned to each of the 11 S&P 500 business sectors. Currently, a total of 22 investment students manage more than $2 million in overall assets.
Since March 13, 2020, the program, which had previously been in person, moved to a virtual format. That meant a temporary end to in-person visits to investment companies; although, Zoom meetings with industry professionals continued.
Still, the student-managed portfolios have seen strong returns as stocks have soared in a surprise bull market, and student learning curves haven’t been impacted as society seeks to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases.
“The students have missed the human connection, but they’ve done a great job with the portfolios,” says Kelly Ko, finance lecturer and TCM’s director of equity.
Pre-pandemic, TCM donated $30,000 annually to support President’s Scholar and Business Tutoring Center programs. During the pandemic, the donation increased to nearly $80,000, with the Center for Economic Education, the Guardian Scholars program for former foster youth and other university centers and programs as beneficiaries.