Posted on UVA Today | By Caroline Newman
Last fall, the students in the McIntire Investment Institute – a student-run investing group at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce – hit a pretty significant milestone: $1 million in assets, all under their own management.
The institute was established in 1994 with a $100,000 gift from alumnus, Board of Visitors member and visiting scholar John A. Griffin, who founded the hedge fund Blue Ridge Capital. Over the past 25 years, students have steadily grown that initial investment, working together to research and pitch companies, purchase and sell stocks and carefully manage their investments.
Now, they are giving back to the school in honor of the alumnus who started it all.
Student leaders announced this week they would use $500,000 from their investments to support a new faculty fellowship in Griffin’s honor, called the John A. Griffin Faculty Fellowship in Finance, and to sponsor a series of research seminars bringing guest faculty to Grounds to share their work in finance and economics. It’s not the first time the institute has given back: previous contributions total around $250,000, all supporting various initiatives and resources at McIntire.
“We thought it was a great way to celebrate this milestone, and to show how a student organization can have such a tangible impact on the community,” fourth-year student and McIntire Investment Institute President Nathan Lin said. “Ultimately, we see it as our mission to advance and promote the culture of investing at UVA, and to support McIntire and the University.”
The fellowship, supported by $350,000 of the $500,000 contribution, will sponsor McIntire faculty pursuing finance-related research and scholarship. The remaining funds will go to the seminar series, run through the school’s Center for Investors and Financial Markets. Griffin said he was surprised and thrilled by the students’ idea.
“I am humbled by this great surprise,” he said. “My original premise for the McIntire Investment Institute was to give students responsibility and accountability for managing real money. I had no idea it would become so successful and make such a profound contribution to the University community. I look forward to seeing what the next 25 years brings.”
Lin said the institute, which is open to all students, helped him learn more about the Commerce School and decide to apply. He completed an internship in finance this summer, and after graduation will start his career in New York City at the hedge fund Point72 Asset Management.
“MII has been a great place to get a bearing on my career. It taught me technical skills I need, in quantitative valuation and research, and I met older students who have become great mentors, giving me valuable advice,” he said. “You learn concrete life skills – hard work, teamwork, accountability, leadership.”
Some students work as analysts, researching companies and investments. Others are associates, leading teams of analysts to compile and present investment opportunities. The management team is responsible for evaluating those opportunities, developing investment strategies and voting on long and short investments. The students also run workshops and bring in guest speakers to their weekly meetings, which reach about 100 student members each semester.
“You really learn through community – the ideas are not top-down, but often come up from analysts and associates,” Lin said.
One successful investment focused on artificial intelligence. In 2016, the students invested in computer chip company Nvidia, banking on increased demand for artificial intelligence and machine learning. It paid off.
“We entered around $35 per share, and it’s now about $160 per share,” Lin said.
Students have also learned a lot about how current events, such as ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, can affect both short- and long-term investing.
“We invested in a semiconductor equipment manufacturer that was reliant on the growth of computer chip manufacturing in China. Currently, that is getting hit hard by the tariff environment,” Lin said. “It’s been helpful to think about what is impacting those investments now, and how they might fare in 10 years, when trade with China will hopefully be stable.”
Each investment has taught Lin and his classmates much they can use in their own lives and careers.
“I learn something new every time we meet,” Lin said. “We can give students perspectives on their career, and give them hands-on, active experience managing a portfolio. I think it’s a really unique, one-of-a-kind experience.”
Resources like the faculty fellowship and the research seminars that Lin and his classmates are supporting will help future students have similarly impactful experiences.
“Our contribution represents MII’s net gains of nearly 100 percent over the last four years,” Lin and the group’s chief investment officer, Abhijith Chaganti, noted in a letter to the McIntire community. “We hope that it can be used to aid students and faculty at McIntire in pursuing passions, interests and academic advancements within business, finance and investing.”
“The tremendous success of these young investors is a testament to the self-governance, experiential learning and generosity that we strive to infuse into every McIntire experience,” said Carl Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School. “John’s generosity and foresight in establishing MII twenty-five years ago left an indelible mark on McIntire that will have a lasting impact on our people and programs.”