Sprinkled among those who walk around campus every day is a small group of around 40 students who manage millions of dollars. Their organization is the Nittany Lion Fund (NLF). The NLF and its parent organization, the Penn State Investment Association (PSIA), has two goals: provide investors with strong financial returns and educate members and prepare them for careers on Wall Street.
PSIA was founded in 1999 by Sachin Aggrawal, Ali Chaudhry, and Nathan Kline to give students experience researching, analyzing, and managing a portfolio of stocks on paper. Even in its early years, the organization set its sights on a larger goal to invest real money. Leaders tried to convince the Smeal College of Business administration to allow them to manage actual money, but it wouldn’t be until six years later in 2005 that their dreams would be realized.
In January 2005, under the direction of Professor J. Randall Woolridge, the Nittany Lion Fund, LLC was born and obtained investments — not from the school’s endowment, but from actual investors, many of whom are alumni. Many universities offer students the ability to manage and invest funds that the university owns, but the NLF is unique in that all of its funds come from outside investors.
Starting with about $2.2 million, the NLF currently manages around $7 million invested in 65 companies across a variety of sectors. Three times a week, the fund members meet in the Rogers Family Trading Room in the Business Building for an hour to review the fund’s performance. If any sector wants to make a trade, the fund members vote on it.
Alongside meeting investor expectations, the NLF’s goal is are to increase its diversity, ensure 100 percent of their members secure jobs after graduation, and expand recruitment at more and more Wall Street firms each year.
The NLF truly offers its members a Wall Street experience right here at Penn State.
“The Fund has not only done so much for me from a financial literacy perspective but has also taught me numerous intangible skills as well,” NLF Vice President Ed Goodall said. “Having a million dollars to manage as a 19-year-old forces you to grow up quickly and drives you to be responsible and accountable.”
The Nittany Lion Fund’s success was even noted by financial press outlets including The Street, Fox Business, Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money, and major Wall Street banks. Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch have made Penn State a target school for their internship recruitment efforts. Many NLF members land internships as sophomores and even more land internships as juniors at firms like Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, and many others. Every NLF member secures a job after graduation.
“What I love about the fund is that you’re surrounded by some of the most driven people at Penn State who want to be successful and help others while doing it at the same time,” NLF President Kevin Hernandez said.
“[The Nittany Lion Fund has] given me the opportunity to learn so much about the financial markets in a real-world, hands-on environment that you simply can’t get anywhere else. I’ve been able to land my dream job at J.P. Morgan, and I couldn’t have done it here without Dr. Woolridge, my classmates, and the alumni before them. It’s one of the strongest networks you can have at Penn State and after graduation.”