Equity Society grows with new donation

Lee Betancourt

The Equity Society received a second $100,000 donation to invest in its stock funds, a donation which continues the club’s resurgent path that attracts national attention.

Since the club’s revival last year, membership has grown from approximately 40 to 125 members, mid-cap Chief Investment Officer Thomas Mazzaferro said.

Last year, Mazzaferro, Chris Mazza, John Dellanoce and Jaclyn LePore restarted the club after it remained idle for a few years.

“Our goal was to increase importance and to get more participation, which was clearly successful,” faculty adviser James Jablonski said. “In the beginning, people were inspired by the promise to move to real money, so that was always in the strategic thinking.”

The promise to move to real money turned into a reality due to donations from VSB Class of ’90 alum Chris Haley. Haley’s first $100,000 donation went to the Equity Society’s large-cap investment fund, and his second $100,000 donation will go to the Society’s mid-cap investment fund.

“Students are getting hands-on experience monitoring real securities,” Jablonski said. “It’s better than monitoring a paper portfolio because there’s a lot more at stake.”

The Equity Society only makes investments in “socially responsible” companies, those which receive a rating of 55 or higher as judged by IW Financial, a company that screens stock companies based on how they treat the environment and their employees and how they deal with human rights, bioethics and animal testing issues. The Equity Society does not invest in companies involved with alcohol or tobacco.

The rating of 55 was chosen by researching 10 to 15 companies that the club believed to be socially responsible and seeing how they met certain criteria for each of the elements, Mazzaferro said.

“Being a Catholic university, we wanted to promote that interest and the interest of the actual donors who would like to see that [social responsibility] be the case,” Jablonski said. “We’re more than happy to honor that.”

Between the real money at the Equity Society’s disposal and its commitment to invest only in socially responsible companies, outside sources have taken notice.

The Wall Street Journal highlighted Villanova’s Student Managed Funds Program as a success in July 2006, saying that, “a group of Villanova students has stepped outside the ivory tower to test [socially-responsible investing] with real money in a student-managed fund. Their findings? SRI outperforms.”

As a result of The Wall Street Journal’s report, more companies have noticed the Equity Society, Mazzaferro said.

“[The article] was great; we have firms that come in wanting to meet the whole club,” he said. “And we have real funds; most schools can’t say that.”

The Equity Society is open to all students, not just those enrolled in the School of Business.

“We have bio, engineering, political science and nursing majors [in the club],” Mazzaferro said.

However, the CIO for each of the large- and mid-cap funds must be enrolled in the student managed funds class for “professional guidance,” Jablonski said.

The Student Managed Fund Program is a research project that incorporates the knowledge base from the course.

Members of the Equity Society learn to use the systems software in the Applied Finance Lab; much of the same technology is used on Wall Street in big firms, Mazzaferro said.

Up next for the Equity Society will be investing at the mid-cap level before spring break. This is what Haley’s second $100,000 donation will go toward.

Since November when the club began its investment in large-cap stocks, they have made $5,000 and increased the available investment money by 4.84 percent, including an increase of 2.42 percent since January.

Three of the Equity Society’s investments have made significant gains; Alcon stock increased by 27 percent, while Garmin and Qualcomm increased by 25 and 16 percent respectively.

“It’s been going really well,” Mazzaferro said. “Only five of our companies have gone down.”

Any profit the club makes rolls over to future investments.

This April, club members will travel to New York to visit the New York Stock Exchange and investment firms including Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs.

The trips, real-world experience and publicity are drawing more students to the Equity Society. Having many members is both a blessing and a curse, Jablonski said.

“There’s so much interest in the club that it’s almost becoming overwhelming,” he said.