Bulldog Investment Company Celebrates 10 Years
January 8, 2018
While it’s expected that business programs teach students about investments and portfolio management, it’s rare they allow them to manage real money.
For the past 10 years, TLU’s Bulldog Investment Company (BIC) has been doing just that.
With the help and leadership of Sather Financial Group and founder Dave Sather '89, students have been using Warren Buffett’s (Berkshire Hathaway) value investing philosophy to study financial statements and competitive advantages of different companies to see if they make sense to include in client portfolios.
According to Sather, having a firm command of this information makes a person invaluable whether talking to management, co-workers, vendors, or clients. The program isn’t a simulation; it’s students managing real money and actual investments.
“We realized that no matter if a student was going to work on Wall Street or a nonprofit, every entity has to produce financial statements,” he said. “They also have to be able to understand their competitive advantage and their value proposition. Being able to read and analyze financial statements immediately tells you where an organization is excelling or struggling. Initially, I just thought it might be fun and help a bit. I never realized what had been unleashed. It has been far more successful than I ever imagined.”
Since the program began, the students’ portfolio has grown at 14.18 percent per year and now stands at about $350,000. If they were working in the private sector, this would have made them some of the most successful investment managers in the country.
Participating must be in class every Friday for a minimum of two hours and they have significant external research requirements.
“Even though the program meets at TLU, it is a job,” Sather said. “Every intern is allowed to miss once; after that they know they can be fired. This has been effective at keeping standards high. Furthermore, the people that are attracted to a program of this nature have very high personal standards and expect the same from their teammates.
Once a month, the teams are required to research a company that best represents what Buffett would look for in an investment. In addition to analyzing the financials, they must also clearly articulate the competitive advantage and show a full valuation analysis. These 45-minute presentations are made to a panel of professional investors. After, there are 30 minutes of questions from the judges and the winning team receives $5,000.
Today, Sather says the presentations are so well done they could easily be produced by a Fortune 500 company.
Former Bulldog Investment Company member Arthur Munoz ’15 will graduate from Harvard Law School in May 2018 before going to work at the law firm of Vinson & Elkins in Dallas. The business administration major and math minor said his experience went much further than financial education, providing the opportunity to practice public speaking, diligence, and preparation.
“One of the best things about the internship was the balance of high standards and pushing how Dave pushed his interns to excel,” Munoz said. “He always reminded us this was the place to make an error and allowed us to have complete autonomy over our presentations and decisions. I developed the practical skills of being able to read financial statements, speak the jargon of finance, and think critically about investments. Whether in law or in business, these are fundamental skills that speak to the way markets operate.”
Munoz said it’s important for any current student interested in BIC to understand how unique of a platform it is, especially at a school TLU’s size.
“While I was in BIC, we competed at the Texas Investment Portfolio Symposium where we were stacked against some of the largest and most well known university graduate programs in the state. It really gave me a sense of appreciation for what Dave started. BIC makes you more informed about finance, current events, and about business in general. It will make you a smarter investor for tomorrow.”
Molecular biology major Uzonna Mkparu ’10 graduated from Columbia University in 2014 with a focus on nutrition and integrated wellness. He currently lives in Boston where has started a medical practice with his friend.
Mkparu, a native of Nigeria, was drawn to TLU because of the individual attention given to students. One of his biology courses led him to an economics class where he was introduced to BIC. He calls it the happiest coincidence of his time at TLU.
“There are opportunities to learn about real-world applications across many areas including financials and ethics,” he said. “We kind of get to a point at the prime of our career where we know a lot about one thing and there tends to be a loss of the big picture. BIC helps you see the bigger picture and teaches you how to be an effective problem solver and observer which is important in any industry.”
For him, one of the most impressive aspects of BIC is Sather's commitment to his students.
“It’s amazing to see someone take on a project of this scope using his own time and resources,” he said. “I think this is why the program has been so successful. The ability to still keep in touch with Dave and have continued growth from BIC is wonderful.”
Sather initially set a goal to sustain BIC for 10 years. Now, 60 percent of the investment management team at Sather Financial is TLU graduates and the group continues to have a 100 percent job placement rate.
“This has all set a very high bar—and yet, I think there is more to do,” Sather said. “The research and the presentations continually improve. The quantitative performance has been very, very strong. I want area employers to recognize the quality of TLU students and to fight over them. I want prospective TLU students to recognize the opportunities they have at TLU and with a program like BIC. They will rarely, if ever, get that opportunity at schools like the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University. There have been so many rewards being a part of this program and I want to continue capitalizing on what we’ve built.”
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