The Blazing Alpha Fund Provides Real-World Investment Experience

Blazing Alpha Fund

The Blazing Alpha Fund is a student-run investment club that trades real stocks and helps prepare students for jobs in the financial world.

Blazing Alpha Fund

Program

  • Accounting (B.A.)
  • Business Administration (B.A.)
  • Financial Management (C)

Department

  • The George B. Delaplaine Jr. School of Business

Founded in 2016, the Blazing Alpha Fund provides the student body with real-world investment experience for the financial world. According to the group’s mission statement, students are introduced to the finance world through hands-on experiences that can be applied to students’ future careers. Through these experiences, the students gain skills including how to manage funds and research equities, and they are involved in elements of the financial service industry.  

The club also buys and sells real stocks. Every member of the fund presents at least one stock to the fund’s executive board per semester. The five executive board members make the final decision of which stock to buy or sell. Real trades and investments are made with a portion of the school’s endowment.

One of the tasks the club hopes to achieve is beating the S&P 500 Index benchmark. The S&P 500 measures the stock market performance of 500 of the largest U.S. public trading companies. This index is widely regarded as the best gauge of the U.S. stock market.  

Every fund has a benchmark that it is compared against and is trying to beat. Over various periods of time (year to date, last quarter, since inception) the S&P has a specific percent return. The Blazing Alpha Fund (BAF) is trying to generate a higher percent return over the same period. For example, if the S&P is up 12 percent in one year, and the BAF is up 16 percent in the same time period, then it beats the benchmark.

Tianning Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance, is the current moderator of the BAF. He discussed ways students are involved and what the club does.  

“Most of the former Blazing Alpha Fund members have gotten full-time jobs in the financial industry,” Li said. 

Every year, the club hosts a Wall Street Prep Excel Sheet Bootcamp in November. The event will be in the Tatem Arts Center computer lab Nov. 9-10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you are outside of the Hood community, this two-day event costs $200. Hood students, faculty and staff are free. Former Wall Street financial traders and financial analysts will go over a semester’s worth of material and financial statements. The students are also hoping to go to the New York Stock Exchange and the Morgan Stanley Headquarters this year. 

Currently, the five students on the executive board are Brad Sawyer, senior, president; Eliza Funk, senior, vice president; Joe Kroger, senior, portfolio risk manager; Trent Copenhaver, senior, CFO; and Andrew Heon, junior, CIO.  

Sawyer has been interested in business since his freshman finance class.  

“I particularly enjoyed the finance concentration because I really enjoyed Dr. Li’s Intro to Finance class, and I thought it was something for a lot of opportunity post-graduation,” Sawyer said. “I found out about the Blazing Alpha Fund my sophomore year from a baseball team member, and I wanted to learn more about investing and the stock market.” 

In addition to Li, other faculty members assist students in the BAF. Matthew McGreevy, Hood College trustee and an adjunct instructor in the George B. Delaplaine Jr. School of Business, is the main adviser of the club. Chuck Mann, Hood College CFO, executes all the trades. At the end of the year, the BAF’s executive board presents to the Hood Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee.  

BAF students hope to obtain careers in the finance world after college. Copenhaver hopes to work for an investment company, such as J.P. Morgan. Sawyer and Kroger had full-time summer internships at MUFG (Mitsubishi UFG Investor Services), a mutual fund accounting firm in Rockville, Maryland. They were able to acquire this internship through a former BAF member who graduated in 2017.  

Copenhaver and Funk currently work at an internship at Crossing Company LLC, a real-estate development business in Frederick, where they perform accounting, finance activities, as well as market research on perspective clients. Funk has been a part of the club for three semesters. After finishing at Hood, she is hoping to have a career in the finance world, such as a financial analyst. 

“The fund has gotten me more interested in the finance world,” Funk said. “The money that we get comes from an endowment from the school, and our responsibility is growing the wealth of the school.”  

Learning about the financial world not only provides the students with real-world experience, but it also gives them the tools needed to succeed after graduating from Hood College.