Investing in the future
Andrew Baklund ’18 and Andrew Ivaldi ’19 made their first investments in the stock market when they were in high school.
“I remember being curious about how someone could put money into a seemingly intangible system and grow that investment,” recalled Baklund, now an audit associate at Clark Nuber in Bellevue, Washington.
At Seattle Pacific, their shared interest prompted both to join the Student Investment Fund (SIF). Founded in 2012, the fund initially managed $100,000. Today, it oversees approximately $270,000 worth of assets from the institution’s endowment. Each year, around 25 students manage the fund’s portfolio, research new investment opportunities, and network with financial professionals.
According to Ivaldi, who majored in accounting and business administration and minored in psychology, the most important thing he learned was to speak up. While SIF members’ knowledge varied, the best contributors were those who made critiques, asked questions, and presented new ideas, Ivaldi said.
The SIF portfolio tries to focus on companies with a growth bias — banking behemoth Charles Schwab, content provider Netflix, and retail giant Costco, for example. Students are divided into sector teams overseeing different categories, explained Brian Ficken ’07, director of the Seattle Pacific Foundation.
“We try to have a senior and a junior on each sector team, with the idea that you’re encouraging diversity of thought,” he explained. In addition to market research, students consider less tangible factors, which Ficken calls “peeling back the onion” — factors that might not be reflected in a company’s stock price.
“It’s easy to read a balance sheet,” he said. “But it’s not easy to understand how Netflix is going to use artificial intelligence to grow their user base or how Amazon might disrupt different industries.”
Learning to tackle these questions was one reason Emma Haney ’19 joined SIF. In her senior year, she was lead sector analyst for industrials, a category that included positions in 3M, Lockheed Martin, and Illinois Tool Works.
“I wasn’t familiar with industrials when I was assigned to it, but that’s why I asked for it. I wanted to be forced to educate myself about a sector I knew little about,” said the accounting and international business double major, who joined accountancy firm Moss Adams this fall.
“The ‘bad investment’ can be looked at in terms of opportunity cost. We might have invested in a great company, but we could have been ‘losing money’ by not being invested with another.” — Andrew Baklund ’18
Baklund had a similarly eye-opening experience in the health care sector, learning about vaccines and clinical trials and thinking about the moral implications of certain investments, in light of skyrocketing drug costs.
Sometimes, however, a seemingly solid investment in an organization like Gilead Sciences, did not pan out as expected. The firm had sufficient funding, sales potential, and a new acquisition that had positioned them in a new market, but its stock price did not increase as expected.
“It was a learning experience to follow the company and investigate what was holding it back,” Baklund recalled. “For us, the ‘bad investment’ can be looked at in terms of opportunity cost. We might have invested in a great company, but we could have been ‘losing money’ by not being invested with another.”
In his senior year, Ivaldi was a tech sector analyst with the SIF. His biggest takeaway: Watch out for the hype.
“I don’t want to say avoid the hype,” he said. “Sometimes it results in a large payoff, but at other times, it appears to be all that a company is built on.” Ivaldi joined the financial services firm KPMG this summer.
In addition to making investment decisions, SIF students have the opportunity to learn from professionals at local financial organizations. Last year, they toured Zevenbergen Capital Investments with portfolio manager Anthony Zackery and met with employees from various divisions.
Zackery, who also volunteers on the finance advisory board at Western Washington University, said SPU’s student-run investment portfolio embodies “true active investment management.”
“This style of investing is simple to explain but not easy to do well,” he said in an email.
The career benefits for SIF students are clear. SIF alumni feel more empowered when they enter the workforce since they’re familiar with all of the verbiage and can talk more confidently about investing.
And SIF has influenced the former high school investors’ approach to the markets, too.
Baklund said he now manages his investments with better insight and philosophy than he used to, while Ivaldi said he has refined his portfolios.
“I make fewer trades,” Ivaldi said. “I invest in better quality companies.”