For a select group of business students at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, their financial training is more than an academic exercise. The Student Managed Investment Learning Experience (SMILE) uses UTC students to invest a portion of the school's endowment fund.
Over the past three years, the real-life investment experience helped the UC Foundation earn better than a 9 percent annual return on the initial $250,000 investment in the SMILE fund. The program has also helped produce a top team of student investors at UTC who gained national acclaim this spring in the global CFA Investment Challenge.
The 5-member team from UTC finished among the top finalists in the 2018 competition among more than 1,000 top schools in North America — and was the only all-undergraduate team among the finalists — during the Chartered Financial Analyst Investment Research Challenge finals in Boston.
The competition matches college students from across the world against each other, competing in their analysis and research into a specific company. In Tennessee, UTC and other schools analyzed Delek Logistics Partners (DKL), a logistics, pipeline and marketing company for crude oil and refined products. At the state competition in February, the UTC SMILE team was the only competitor to recommend investors sell the DKL stock, valuing the stock 10 percent below its price at the time over concerns about the company's leverage and ownership structure. The UTC team assessment proved to be the right choice since Delek Logistics' shares dropped by 15 percent from the end of January until the end of March when the national competition was held.
The UTC SMILE team has steadily gotten better over the past three years in the CFA annual competition, rising from the No. 2 team in Tennessee three years ago in their first year of competition to a regional winner last year to a finalist among thousands of colleges competing with teams this year.
"It's really phenomenal how quickly we've ascended up the ladder of recognition, and I think that is a real testament to how our students care about this competition and the skills they are developing here at UTC," says Dr. Hunter M. Holzhauer, a UC Foundation assistant professor of finance and team advisor. "Chattanooga is really becoming more of a city of business and entrepreneurship and we think UTC is a key part of that as we move on from more of a commuter school to a destination campus with students picking us over other schools all the time."
UTC's SMILE Fund team in the CFA competition this year included captain Shane Cotriss, a recent finance graduate; Kimberly Guo, an accounting and English major; Andrew Cox, an economics major; Heather Edde, a finance major; and Hunter Carroll, a former president of the SMILE fund who recently received CFA Outstanding Student Award.