Jeffrey M. Spencer ’17 chose Canisius for his education knowing he could bank on educational opportunities and exceptional outcomes. That decision yielded great returns for the economics/finance major, including a full-time job within M&T Bank’s Management Development Program. Spencer secured the position in October 2016 – well before graduation day.
“Having a job prior to graduation is a testament to the Canisius name and the respect the college has in the job market,” Spencer says. “Employers know the rigors of the Canisius program and the quality of the professors here, who set high expectations for students and really challenge them to push each other so as to produce job-ready graduates.”
In fact, the real value of Canisius’ economics and finance program lies in the educational opportunities that faculty afford to students – namely via the Golden Griffin Fund (GGF).
The student-run investment management program takes an innovative approach to teaching investment management in that it gives students the opportunity to make real investments using real money. Novice financiers select potential companies in which to invest; create and manage portfolio holdings (stocks); and evaluate and recommend companies to add to the portfolio.
“An education works best when it is supplemented with real world, practical experiences,” Spencer says. “The Golden Griffin Fund is a unique opportunity for students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it.”
Students do this out of the Nelson D. Civello Financial Markets Lab, which is outfitted with top industry software such as S&P Capital IQ, Morningstar and nine Bloomberg terminals.
“The technology in itself is a huge advantage to students in the program,” says Meghan A. Federico ’17. The finance and economics major will utilize much of the same technology she used as a student when she starts work as an investment banking analyst with Raymond James in Boston. “Integration in any new job is difficult but having trained on these programs as a student is one less thing I’ll need to worry about.”
Established in 2003, Canisius’ Golden Griffin Fund is carving out a place among the elite finance programs in Western New York. The GGF boasts a near 100 percent job placement rate for students and a growing recruiting presence from many of the world’s most powerful financial firms, including Morgan Stanley, Morningstar and Citi. It helps that the GGF has a lofty pedigree – not just in local circles but around the world.
For the past seven years, GGF students have successfully competed in the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge, an elite competition of finance students from universities across the globe. For the past three consecutive years, Canisius has been the only college out of over 500 competing in all of North and South America to advance to the Americas finals.
“The GGF teams of the past seven years have defied the statistical odds way too much for their success to be happenstance,” says Richard W. Wall ’78, PhD, CFA, professor of economics/finance and faculty advisor to the GGF. “To be able to reach the highest levels of accomplishment is an outgrowth of our Jesuit mission and philosophy, which inspires academic excellence and care for the whole person.”
The CFA Institute Research Challenge pits top university teams against each other in an intensive financial analysis competition. Brains supersede brawn in this college match-up, which begins each fall when teams are assigned publicly traded companies. They spend the next few months researching and analyzing those companies and outlining their findings in detailed equity research reports, which suggest buy, sell or hold recommendations. Students then present and defend their reports to financial professionals who judge teams on their investment skills, professional standards and ethics.
“The CFA Challenge takes everything we learn in GGF to the next level,” explains Federico. “I am fortunate to have had the opportunity, which enabled me to sharpen my finance skills, hone my communication skills and taught me how to think on my feet.”
The single-elimination contest starts at the local level, where Canisius has established an elite status with first-place success for the past seven consecutive years. In 2015, Canisius won the global championship title, placing first ahead of more than 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 865 universities in 70 countries.
“The expectations are really high and competing is a lot of work, in addition to all your other academic responsibilities,” adds Spencer. “But the experience of working on a massive project like this in a high-pressure environment where everyone needs to contribute is something that prepares me more for the workplace.”
Stock in the college’s finance program is up, significantly, as a result of the GGF’s success. Enrollment in the college’s finance and economic programs is nearly triple that of seven years ago, with 320 students. Moreover, the financial world is taking notice.
“The banner of Canisius College is now on Wall Street and in the financial capitals of Chicago, Los Angeles, London and Hong Kong,” says Nelson D. Civello ’67, who established the Golden Griffin Fund. “CFAs are paying attention and asking ‘Who is this college in Buffalo, NY that’s producing such quality finance students.’”