May 15, 2019
VSIG members and Dr. Elvan Aktas at the New York Stock Exchange in New York City.
The VSIG meets weekly in VSU’s cutting-edge Southeastern Federal Credit Union Financial Trading Center on North Campus.
VALDOSTA — When it comes to learning about financial investments, games and virtual simulations are helpful, but nothing comes close to the learning experience of investing with real money, said Dr. Elvan Aktas, professor of finance and director of graduate programs at Valdosta State University’s Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration.
“The attitude, the risk, the ownership, and the experience becomes real,” said Aktas, faculty adviser for the Valdosta State Investment Group (VSIG), a student investment club that is often standing room only during its weekly meetings in VSU’s cutting-edge Southeastern Federal Credit Union Financial Trading Center on North Campus.
During these meetings, graduate and undergraduate students discuss economic news and policies, as well as the 30 or so financial securities investments that make up the VSIG’s portfolio — a $190,000 fund owned by the VSU Foundation. Money never leaves this fund; it is always invested in stocks of the group’s choosing.
Members have the chance to pitch new stock investments, and they must defend their proposal, explaining the stock’s value, why the group should hold it and for how long, and what the exit strategy would be. Final decisions on buying and selling stock are made by the VSIG’s Asset Management Team, a small group of experienced members who represent different sectors of the market.
Every spring, the Asset Management Team presents its portfolio to the VSIG advisory board, which is made up of financial professionals from various banks and organizations that donate money and provide guidance to the club. The advisory board asks tough questions about what VSIG members did in the past year with their money.
“That is probably the most valuable learning experience for our Asset Management Team because they end up defending an actual portfolio in front of Wall Street professionals,” Aktas said. “Without them knowing it, they’re actually preparing for job interviews. They’re learning how to answer difficult questions.”
Other learning experiences include participating in an annual student investment competition in New York City and visiting the New York Stock Exchange trading floor.
As the academic year comes to a close, Aktas said he never fails to see immense growth in the group’s members.
“We use this club as a cultivation tool,” Aktas said. “I’ve seen it year after year — a junior member comes to the meeting, sits in the back, and doesn’t want to say anything. I watch them grow within two years to learn, engage, and actively participate. Seeing that is priceless. And I don’t know one previous Asset Management Team member who did not get a great job after they graduated from this program. They’re all living testaments to the club’s effectiveness.”
Jacob Jones, VSIG president, said the group has been an outlet for him to pursue his career goals ever since he joined in 2016. Jones, from Lawrenceville, Georgia, earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and a Bachelor of Business Administration in economics in Spring 2017. He graduated in Spring 2019 with a Master of Business Administration and plans to enter the financial services industry.
“Above all else, I love the interaction the club gives,” Jones said. “At any given point, any member is allowed to share their thoughts, comments, and concerns, and it spurs an incredible amount of development for the individuals attending the meetings.
“VSIG was also a way for me to test my ability as a future investor. It put me in compromising positions in which my knowledge base wasn’t what I wanted it to be. By putting myself in these positions, I learned from both the failure and success. Directly, I have had the opportunity to serve as the president of an organization that has benchmarked the S&P 500 every single year.”
No experience is required to join the VSIG, and any major can participate.
“We love people with different backgrounds and different interests because they bring a fresh attitude; they bring us information about sectors we typically don’t follow or might miss,” Aktas said. “So that’s why we have students from computer science, math, marketing, and other majors. Diversity brings a fresh perspective.”
Contact Dr. Elvan Aktas at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.