UM Students Help Manage Investments for Tennessee Valley Authority

Ole Miss team places fourth in investment competition, gains real-world experience

UM students Christian May (left), Ian Soileau, Claire Fulkerson, Lamar Norsworthy and Makail Johannesson presented the team’s strategy and results to TVA officials at the Tennessee Valley Authority Investment Challenge in Nashville, Tennessee. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Twelve students from the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration’s portfolio management team recently represented the university in Nashville, Tennessee, for the Tennessee Valley Authority Investment Challenge.

The TVA’s investment program is one of the nation’s largest student-managed investment plans. It allows student teams to manage stock portfolios for the agency, giving them better understanding of investments through experience. Based on the portfolios’ performances, students are awarded prizes by the TVA.

For calendar year 2016, the Ole Miss portfolio team earned a return of 11.95 percent, which placed them fourth among the 23 participating schools. Only Trevecca Nazarene University, at 18.7 percent; East Tennessee State University, 18.6 percent; and the University of Tennessee, 16.7 percent, earned better returns over the year.

“It was a cool experience to immerse ourselves in a professional environment like the TVA conference,” said Makail Johannesson, a junior economics major from Red Lake, Ontario. “We learn a lot of content and fundamentals in the classroom, but there is no better way to grasp corporate culture than being a part of it.”

The strong performance was supported by Ole Miss’ portfolio holdings in T-Mobile, Chevron and AT&T, stocks which recorded gains of 65 percent, 35 percent and 34 percent, respectively, during 2016.

The students managed approximately a half-million dollars of the TVA’s funds by designing long-term investment strategies, making trades and providing performance reports to the agency.

The real-world experience will be valuable in helping the students compete professionally, said Ken Cyree, dean of the business school.

“We are pleased that these students have an excellent experiential learning opportunity through the TVA,” Cyree said. “We are also thankful that the competition provided an opportunity for the students to hone their presentation skills.

“The use of real funds helps add to the importance of decision-making, and the presentation of the results adds to the importance of being accountable for our decisions.”

Besides Johannesson, the team included Jocelyn Cropper, a junior managerial finance major from Cypress, Texas; Claire Fulkerson, a junior majoring in accountancy from Dallas; Ashely Glennon, a senior managerial finance major from Austin, Texas; Boyce Holleman, a senior from Jackson majoring in managerial finance and banking and finance; Blake Maum a senior from Chattanooga, Tennessee, majoring in banking and finance; Christian May, a senior managerial finance major from Memphis; Lamar Norsworthy, a junior accountancy major from Memphis; Kyle D. Snyder, a junior marketing major from Keller, Texas; Ian Soileau, a sophomore from Hernando majoring in mathematics and managerial finance; Tyler Whitmore, a senior in accountancy from Sherwood, Arkansas; and Grant A. Wiley, a junior from Dallas majoring in banking and finance.

Five of the team members – Fulkerson, Johannesson, May, Norsworthy and Soileau – presented their performance results and explained their strategy to the TVA executives.

Travis Box, UM assistant professor of finance, and Jonathan Daigle, adjunct instructor of finance, organized the team and serve as faculty advisers.

“The students studied the markets and conducted meetings all year,” Box said. “They presented their research, fought for their ideas, and it paid off.

“There is so much talent in this group, and I can’t wait to see what they are able to accomplish going forward.”

The money used for the challenge comes from the TVA’s Asset Retirement Trust Fund, established in 1996 to meet the financial obligations of decommissioning the agency’s non-nuclear power units. The Investment Challenge is part of a larger strategy to diversify the financial management of the Trust Fund.

When the program began, 19 universities received investment funds of $100,000 each, totaling $1.9 million. The program has expanded to include 25 universities, with some $10 million being invested.

“The Investment Challenge is another example of the many great things the TVA provides people,” said Richard Howorth, an Ole Miss graduate, owner of Square Books in Oxford and chair-elect of the TVA’s board of directors. “This program is especially meaningful because it is an opportunity for the organization to help young people learn about the world of financial investment as well as broaden their interest in potential career paths.”