Real money, hands-on experience proves invaluable to Montano Student Managed Investment Fund participants


Student Perspective: Finance student Tao Wei is the vice president of the Risk Committee for the Montano Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF). In this piece, he shares first-hand experiences of working with SMIF, and what students can learn from this hands-on opportunity.

Tao Wei
Tao Wei

The Montano Student Managed Investment Fund provides students with hands-on experience in portfolio management, equity valuation, and market research. We manage more than $300,000 of real money under the George Mason University SMIF Investment Policy Statement, and conduct market research, searching for undervalued companies. According to the investment policy statement, the expected return objective of SMIF funds is to provide an annualized total return that outperforms the benchmark S&P 500 total return. The Fund's exposure to risk should not be significantly higher than that of the S&P 500. Additionally, we have the opportunity to build our networks with market experts and secure internships. 

Through our involvement with SMIF, we have access to the same tools and technology used by today's investment professionals. We use the Bloomberg terminal, a powerful tool that provides many precious databases and timely news, to follow the market, pitch stocks, and conduct risk analysis. We are trained by Bloomberg Education and receive a Bloomberg Market Certification, which allows us to better track stocks, manage our portfolio effectively and is an excellent boost to our resume. In addition, the platform allows us to capture market trends and connect with experts in the financial sector. Personally, I often attend Quant conferences hosted by the Bloomberg team. Experts from well-known companies such as JPMorgan Chase present their research on the latest pricing models in the market. This experience has deepened my understanding of the market model and helped me explore my career direction. 

During our weekly operation, the SMIF team meets to discuss market events. We pay attention to economic conditions, including inflation and interest rate levels. We measure the portfolio's performance with S&P 500's performance. If we find an opportunity, we assess the potential risk and choose whether or not to buy the stock after reaching a consensus. Also, we need to manage risk. Our investment policy only allows us to invest in the stock market, not the bond and options markets. If one of our holdings falls by more than 20 percent, we consider it too risky and sell it. This invaluable experience exposes us to real markets and market analysis tools and we gain a deeper understanding of the financial industry. 

Moreover, we gain significant skills from organizing and operating a number of eventsin particular, our annual stock competition called the Alpha Challenge. Last year, more than 50 students participated in our first Alpha Challenge, with more than $3,000 in cash prizes awarded to the competitors. On November 4, we will be hosting our second Alpha Challenge as it is an excellent event to improve students' skills and network with professionals. Additionally, the SMIF also holds an annual dinner where we invite former SMIF officers and alumni who now work in a variety of financial firms, including consulting, investment banking, real estate, and asset management. We love having dinner and being able to network with these financial professionals as they come with their stories and insights on financial markets.  

Academically, we assist Dr. Horstmeyer in research on leading-edge topics, including exchange-traded funds (ETFs) performance, fixed income, and quantitative finance. Dr. Horstmeyer writes and publishes monthly columns for The Wall Street Journal and the CFA Institute. As research assistants, we are able to delve into some interesting topics by assisting with data work. We apply the numerical methods learned in class to the research project and explore many interesting phenomena. We research some special strategies such as the "Barbell bond strategy" and "Covered Call ETF strategy." We explore the impact of macroeconomic events on the equity market, such as inflation and rising interest rates. Our topics are not limited to the financial field. Sometimes, we work on interesting non-financial projects. When the online game Wordle was popular, Kanwal and I assisted Dr. Horstmeyer on the Wordle project. Wordle gives players six chances to guess the selected five-letter word. In our project, We use programming to simulate the guessing process and then find the best strategy for the first guess. The article was published in The Conversation. It was a very exciting experience. 

What's more, Mason SMIF officers have the opportunity to participate in many stock competitions. Along with SMIF groups and professionals across the country, we will have officers attending the Student Managed Investment Fund Consortium (SMIFC) 2022 conference in Chicago in October. While there, three of the current SMIF officers will compete in the poster competition. It will be a good chance for our SMIF team to exchange ideas and network with other SMIF groups. Quinnipiac's Global Asset Management Education Forum (GAME Forum) is another conference we are considering joining, as is the GAME Forum, which will take place in person at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in March 2023. We are always looking for meaningful events that we can attend to keep learning and improving our professional skills. 

If you want to participate in the management process of an equity investment fund or network with financial experts, please join us. You will have many opportunities to improve your professional skills in SMIF. You can find more information about SMIF on our official website


The Montano Student Managed Investment Fund is a fund that is managed by a select group of finance majors at George Mason University.  Students are in charge of monitoring the current portfolio and making all alteration decisions to the portfolio amongst themselves through a voting procedure outlined in the bylaws of the fund. The fund offers students a hands-on approach to market research, equity valuation, and risk analysis. Learn more about the Montano Student Managed Investment Fund.