In December 2019, the combined value of Bryant’s Archway Investment Fund (AIF) surpassed $2 million, an impressive achievement for the student-run fund. Its history of success, however, extends beyond the bottom line. For nearly 15 years, the Fund’s managers have developed the skills, knowledge, and confidence to stand out in a competitive job market and become leaders in their fields.
“There’s a big difference between turning in a research paper and turning in a $30,000 buy order,” notes Stephen Jones ’20, who will join John Hancock’s Investment Divisional Rotation Program after graduation. “If you want to go into investing, Archway does a really good job of differentiating you and, even more importantly, it sets you up to understand how the investment industry actually works.”
“We teach about the things that happen in a real investment process: What’s the theory? The key concepts? The practical application? And then they apply them to the portfolio.”
Recipe for success
Established in 2005 with an initial $200,000 cash investment, the AIF, led by finance Professor Asli Ascioglu, is now a multi-asset program with separate equity and fixed income portfolios. Unlike the student-managed funds at many other institutions, the Fund is tightly integrated into the Finance Department curriculum, serving as a capstone learning opportunity for students preparing to begin investment careers.
The AIF provides Bryant University students with the opportunity to manage an investment portfolio following the principles used by financial professionals around the globe. In the two-course sequence, Archway students begin by learning investment management and financial analysis fundamentals. In the second course, they put those lessons to work managing real money.
“You have to make sure you understand the full complexity of a company when you’re investing.”
“We teach about the things that happen in a real investment process: What’s the theory? The key concepts? The practical application?” says Executive in Residence Kevin J. Maloney, Ph.D., who teaches the Archway Fixed Income Portfolio Management course and co-teaches the Archway Equity Portfolio Management course. “And then they apply them to the portfolio.”
The approach gets results. “Students in the Archway Investment Fund run a product that would be competitive in the marketplace,” says Maloney, who notes that both the Fixed Income Fund and the Equity Fund beat their benchmarks last semester.
The Fund’s success can, in large part, be attributed to comprehensive analysis and a strong commitment to the underlying fundamentals of business. Supported by Bryant’s state-of-the art C.V Starr Financial Markets Center and invaluable resources such as FactSet, Sustainalytics, and the University’s Bloomberg financial terminals, the Archway portfolio managers delve into the market, performing deep research into companies, industries, and potential trades.
Archway alumni "told us about how often their experience with the Fund came up in interviews and advised all of us to put it at the top of our resumes.”
“You have to make sure you understand the full complexity of a company when you’re investing – you can't just look at the numbers,” explains Alexis Arsenis ’20, who was a member of the AIF’s Executive Board during the fall 2019 semester and will be an Associate Financial Analyst with Fidelity Investments after graduation. “You have to also look at the structure of the business and other factors that play into how it runs.”
That thorough approach helps to remind students to value continuing success over short-term gain. “Our professors emphasize the importance of thinking in the long term,” says Arsenis. “That’s a good thing to remember when we’re making trades.”
Another focus of the investment strategy: sustainability. The AIF pursues socially responsible investing by recognizing the environmental, social, and corporate governance impacts (known as ESG) of its potential and current holdings. "Finding companies that have strong ESG is important to Archway," states Arsenis, who notes the AIF looks at a company’s relationships with the natural environment, its employees, its customers, its suppliers, and the community. The Fund also considers a company’s leadership, ethics, and business practices.
"The alumni who come in to talk to us all come from different investment areas. ... They want to make sure that you have an edge when you graduate.”
An important difference
“There’s no other class like Archway,” says Jaret Petruzzelli ’20. “You’re learning about everything that goes into a portfolio, from construction and strategy to managing risk to working in a team to communicating with clients.”
Bryan Seserman ’20, a member of the AIF’s Executive Board in fall 2019, calls Archway "the most rewarding and challenging academic experience I've had at Bryant." His time with the Fund prepared him for the future. “This program provided me with hands-on experience in asset management with some of the best professors Bryant has to offer. The progression I saw in myself and my classmates was truly amazing."
“The students in Archway are ... building on the work of the alumni before them and they’re setting a foundation for future generations of Archway students."
Participation in the AIF is also an important asset when applying for jobs. “We had a panel of Archway alumni who came in and talked to us about how to make the most of our experience,” says Petruzzelli. “They told us about how often their experience with the Fund came up in interviews and advised all of us to put it at the top of our resumes.”
Past, present, and future
The program organizes a wide range of events that help students develop important connections. Archway alumni also frequently return as guest speakers. “The alumni who come in to talk to us all come from different investment areas, so you learn different things from all of them,” Petruzzelli says. “They want to make sure that you have an edge when you graduate.”
“The alumni network in Archway is so strong, and only getting stronger,” adds Jones, who points to a discussion he had with AIF alumni board member Nico Santini ’93, now a Senior Client Strategist/Portfolio Manager at New England Asset Management, Inc., as especially helpful. “Being able to hear the insights of people who are actually out there doing the work is really valuable.”
“Whatever else I do in my career, I can say I was part of the Fund when Archway hit $2 million.”
“The students in Archway are part of an inter-generational program. They’re building on the work of the alumni before them and they’re setting a foundation for future generations of Archway students,” says Maloney. “At the beginning of the semester, I tell the portfolio managers, ‘One of your most important clients is the future Archway student who wants to be part of this program. You have a responsibility to them to make sure that the Fund continues.’”
That sense of history makes an impact on the Archway students. "Completing trades throughout the semester was a fantastic learning experience that I will hold with me throughout my career,” says Fall 2019 Portfolio Manager Derek Westhaver ’20, “and I was happy we could make a significant contribution to the portfolio and University."
“Whatever else I do in my career,” notes Petruzzelli, “I can say I was part of the Fund when Archway hit $2 million.”