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Student Investment Club Offers Real-World Experience

By Richard Crawford ’74

Rivanna Investments is a student investment club that gives its members real-world experience in investment management and investment markets by allowing them to manage a small portion of the Law School endowment.

A group of first-years who were as passionate about global finance as they were about the law founded Rivanna Investments in the fall of 2010. They began to meet weekly to discuss recent economic and market developments. What began as a group of friends engaging in convivial lunchtime discussions about corporate affairs evolved into rigorous investigations into potential investments.

In the spring of 2011 this group of friends approached the Law School Foundation with the idea of launching a student-run investment group managing real money on behalf of the Law School. The model for such an activity was Darden Capital Management, which had been founded at Darden in 1991. It had developed an excellent investment record over a 20-year period in which it managed a small amount of the Darden endowment.

Law School Foundation Chief Executive Officer Luis Alvarez ’88 supported the idea and referred it to Dean Paul Mahoney for his review and approval. After thorough consideration by the dean, he recommended the idea to the Foundation’s Investment Committee who supported it and approved the allocation of $100,000 in initial capital for the group to invest.

The dean and trustees felt the club was an excellent fit with the Law & Business Program, as well as a way to provide practical experience to students interested in investments and investment markets. Rivanna offers Law students a stronger educational experience relating to investment and securities markets and better prepares them for legal and business careers relating to the financial services industry.

Currently, Rivanna has more than 30 student partners who make recommendations on which listed stocks to invest in using fundamental, values-oriented, research driven analysis. The club’s basic investment focus is a two-prong strategy of buying blue chip stocks with a solid dividend yield while pursuing other stocks that represent a value investment opportunity. The club’s investment process requires that an individual member present an investment recommendation supported by an oral presentation to the entire club accompanied by a detailed written analysis of the investment opportunity.

The club’s investment committee then votes thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the specific investment recommendation. In addition to its core activity of researching investment opportunities and managing its small fund, Rivanna has a steady stream of educational activities for its members, including training sessions on topics like financial analysis and guest speakers from the investment industry.

Since its founding Rivanna has hosted numerous campus speaking engagements including Alice Handy of Investure, Thad Glowacki ’05 of Mangham Associates, Frank Edmonds ’95 of King Street Capital, Jim Donovan of Goldman Sachs, and Peter Kaufman ’78 of Gordian Group.

Beyond education for its members, Rivanna is attempting to reach out to the broader UVA Law alumni community with investment education. At the end of February the club mailed its first newsletter with a featured investment article and a stock selection for the quarter. They plan to make it a quarterly publication with featured articles by interested alumni in the money management business.

Going forward, Rivanna plans to grow into a for-credit academic activity in the same manner as Darden Capital Management. At the end of 2012 the club established a formal alumni advisory board to help develop its program over time. For the future, the club plans to develop a strong relationship with the CFA Institute located in Charlottesville, including scholarships for club members, to pursue the chartered financial analyst curriculum and designation.

In addition, the club is seeking to establish summer internship with institutional money managers so that members can get real-world work experience in money management.