Fresno State finance students to get room for live stock trades (video)

The Fresno BeeApril 2, 2014 

Fresno State is almost 3,000 miles from New York City, but the university will bring Wall Street a little bit closer to the Valley next year when it builds its own stock trading floor for finance students.

The concept isn't new: Universities across the country have similar labs where young student investors manage portfolios and make live trades on the exchange.

Think of the iconic stock exchange scenes where traders buzz around computer terminals and electronic tickers, watching prices rise or fall throughout the day.

"It's a mini version of that," said Bob Harper, dean of the Sid Craig School of Business.

Fresno State's room will come equipped with at least four computers, investment databases, an electronic ticker and a television, Harper said. It's being paid for through a $45,000 gift from Wells Fargo.

The space will be built over the summer months, Harper said, and open for business by fall. It will be located in the Leon S. Peters Business Building.

Certain business school students will have access to the room, where they'll help manage a $2.7 million fund -- money from the university's foundation set aside for students to supervise.

Steve Heinrichs, chair of the Foundation's investment committee, said the student fund started out at $50,000 several years ago before it was hiked to $1 million in 2010.

Student investors helped grow that to more than $1.7 million by investing in Goodyear Tires and other companies, including biotech firm Actavis that develops and makes pharmaceutical drugs.

That growth helped earn the students first place in the growth category at an international investment competition in Ohio last month. Fresno State finished fourth in that category last year.

"It raises the profile of the business school at Fresno State," Heinrichs said of this year's award. "That's a good thing because that means we're getting higher-caliber students all the time. They're attracted to the university because of the things we're doing there."

The Foundation decided to give the students another $1 million to manage, Heinrichs said, when it discovered the student portfolio -- which grew by 37.7% last year alone -- was growing slightly faster than some Foundation funds managed by Goldman Sachs.

"Not by a lot," he said, "But this is a serious thing, so we transferred another million to them."

K.C. Chen, finance and business law department chair, oversees the student-managed investment fund class. The hands-on experiences teaches students responsibility -- it's not hypothetical, he said, but real dollars being invested on behalf of Fresno State.

The new trading lab will give students even more resources to make trade decisions, he said.

"We need to have a place for students to congregate together and do research together," he said.

The trade room -- and a larger pot of money to invest next year -- could give Fresno State graduates a leg-up on the competition when it comes time to apply for jobs.

"With that large amount of money there comes a lot of responsibility," said 23-year-old Grant Williams, a senior and president of the investment fund class. "If we're considering investing in a stock we definitely dissect that company, look at their earnings and growth potential."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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