CFA Society Toasts Cougar Investment Fund Team

CFA Society Honors Cougar Investment Fund Students from UH Bauer

Published on September 30, 2010

Photo: CFA Society Honors Cougar Investment Fund Students from UH Bauer

The UH Bauer team that topped the regional round of competition in the 2010 CFA Investment Research Challenge was honored at a recent meeting of the CFA Society of Houston. The team, pictured with Tom George, Bauer Professor of Finance and director of the AIM Center for Investment Management at Bauer, included Lenny Bianco, Paul Stewart, Karen Herbst and Luis Lugo.

A year ago, Lenny Bianco and Karen Herbst were Bauer MBA students getting their first taste of picking stocks for the Cougar Investment Fund.

The experience with the $5.7 million student-run investment fund at the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business changed the direction of their careers. Both are now working for investment firms in Houston.

Bianco and Herbst were part of a four-member team of Cougar Fund students who were named the regional winners in the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Investment Research Challenge last spring. The group was recognized at a recent meeting of the CFA Society of Houston, where they also presented a background of the Cougar Fund.

“We are proud of the Cougar Fund. For two of the last thee years they’ve been winners of the IRC Texas,” said Ronald H. Joe, president of the local chapter of the CFA Society. “This shows you the kind of talent we have in our community.”

For Bianco and Herbst, the Cougar Fund has been an invaluable launching pad into successful careers in the investment industry.

Bianco, who’d been an engineer, said working on the fund gave his career a new direction and the skills to land a job doing equities research with Pritchard Capital Partners in Houston while working on his MBA. The local CFA Society made that easier financially with a scholarship last year.

Herbst, who’d been in the commercial real estate business, said she applied for the Cougar Fund “on a whim and I got in deeper than I anticipated.” She graduated and is now analyzing fixed-income securities for Garcia Hamilton & Associates in Houston.

Herbst and Bianco, along with their fellow IRC teammates Luis Lugo and Paul Stewart, described the research-driven stock picking process and the debate required to build a consensus on each of the 30 to 35 stocks owned by the fund.

“It was a tremendous experience to me. I was an engineer and knew little about money management. I was buying mutual funds,” said Lugo, a senior portfolio manager with the fund and an engineer for Shell.

“You realize how much you can learn by digging into these companies,” said Paul Stewart, a senior portfolio manager with the fund who works as an attorney for Fort Bend County. “There’s also the benefit of some pretty interesting arguments, and you find you have the ability to get by on so little sleep.”

The meeting was also an opportunity for the society to announce the local MBA students receiving scholarships this year. Maria Asher and Russell Schulze were chosen from Bauer College.

Asher, whose education and work in her native Pakistan was in banking, said she plans to work in investing.

The CFA Society of Houston represents over 850 local professionals who have earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. The CFA charter sets standards for professional excellence and ethical conduct in the global investment industry.

Jack Lippincott, the head of the society’s scholarship committee, said they choose from a list of top MBA candidates sent by the university, all with strong credentials.