After living in New York City for 13 years, Trevor Montano, BS Accounting ’00, returned to the region and reconnected with George Mason University. He joined the George Mason University Foundation (GMUF) Board of Trustees and began to examine the greatest needs of the School of Business, analyzing how he could help improve experiential learning and finance student job placement. Noticing the University did not have a student managed investment fund, Montano enlisted a student (now alumnus), Brandon Nestor, BS Finance ’17, to assist in researching and setting up the fund, which launched in 2018 with an initial capital investment from the GMUF endowment. Thanks to an enabling gift from Trevor and his wife Regina Montano, the Montano Student Investment Fund, as it is known today, is thriving in giving business students hands-on experience in portfolio management and is attracting the attention of top employers.
“The creation of the Montano Student Investment Fund required detailed diligence; we consulted with schools across the mid-Atlantic regarding process and operations, drafted a proposed structure, presented our thoughts and findings to the GMUF Board of Trustees along with relevant decision makers, in addition to anything else needed to get the fund off the ground,” says Nestor. “Turning Trevor's foundational idea into a reality required commitment and teamwork, so it’s very satisfying to see it start paying early dividends.”
Derek Horstmeyer, professor of finance, and Tiago Requeijo, assistant professor of finance, teach the class that was created for this purpose, and their students present a semi-annual performance report to the GMUF Board of Trustees. “I joined the [Montano] Student Investment Fund because it is an amazing opportunity to get hands-on experience working as a team to manage a real portfolio,” says Stephanie Fincher, a senior studying finance and business analytics. “It has taught me a lot about researching and selecting stocks as well as monitoring the overall portfolio performance and risk.”
One of Fincher’s teammates, Chaitanaya Manya Vij, a senior studying finance, adds, “The fund not only forces student analysts to have a broader understanding of market conditions, but also pushes them to look for market growth opportunities in narrow sectors of the S&P 500, meaning that we must approach investing by thinking both inside and outside the box.“ He also notes how it offers participation in many invaluable opportunities and events like the CFA Challenge and case competitions. The CFA Institute Research Challenge places students in the position of research analysts, putting their skills to the test. The challenge also provides mentorship and training to further sharpen their skills. Participating in this and other related events elevates the students and gets them alongside the most select business students in the nation. And by elevating Mason students, the Montano Student Investment Fund is also adding prestige to the School of Business, recruiting top students and top employers to hire them.
The benefits of the fund are immediately recognized by those students who go on to work in the field. “The [Montano] Student Investment Fund gave me the opportunity to pitch investment ideas and face pushback and questions from fellow students, professors, and the foundation’s Board of Trustees,” says Rudy Kessinger, BS Finance ’18. “As a sell-side equity analyst, I spend a lot of my time doing the same thing, both internally with our sales force and with institutional investors. My experience with the fund prepared me well for this and gave me a lot more confidence starting out than I would have otherwise had.”
In establishing the fund, Montano wanted to provide a more effective launching pad for students who seek to begin their careers in finance and investment management. He appreciates the differentiated experience gained from managing real money through his firsthand experiences interviewing young college graduates over the years. As for the future of the Montano Student Investment Fund, he hopes it continues to improve outcomes. “I would love to see more students move into challenging and high-level investment management jobs,” says Montano. “And I hope that those who graduate from the program decide to give back and help the students who follow them.” While the fund is still young, it already has several former participants who are highly successful financial industry professionals. As the number of alumni continues to grow, they will help drive additional career opportunities for upcoming graduates.
About Trevor & Regina Montano
Trevor is the founder and managing member of West Potomac Capital LLC, an alternative asset management firm based in Arlington, Virginia. Prior to founding West Potomac Capital, he spent 20 years on Wall Street providing strategic and financial advice to and raising capital for financial institutions. He also spent three years in the public sector as the chief investment officer of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. He met Regina while living in New York City and they relocated back to the Washington, D.C., area in 2014. Regina is an Arlington Public School teacher and the Montanos have two wonderful children.