Legendary Cougar Fund Team Still Making News

Wall Street Journal names Bauer alumnus Jason Wangler (MS ’07) a top stock picker

Published on July 5, 2011

Bauer graduate Jason Wangler, recently named one of America’s top stock pickers by The Wall Street Journal, says the Cougar Fund helped prepare him for his job. He says he thinks the stock market will struggle this summer but should level out in the fall. “Overall for the year, I think it will be up,” he says, “but not significantly like the last two.”

Back in 2007, a trio of MS Finance candidates from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business helped put the Cougar Fund on the map.

That’s when the university’s student-managed private-investment fund made its debut at the Texas Investment Portfolio Symposium. Led by Jason Wangler, Michael Sergi and Jeff Detwiler, the underdog Coogs walked off with second-place in the regional competition. The strong performance positioned their Cougar Fund successors to compete in the next year’s Chartered Financial Analyst Institute’s Global Investment Research Challenge, where they were named best in the country and third in the world.

Four years after graduating, the legendary 2007 Cougar Fund team continues to make news. Just recently, Wangler was named one of the top stock pickers in America by The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper ranked the Bauer grad — then at Wunderlich Securities and now a SunTrust Robinson Humphrey vice president — fourth in the Oil & Gas Producers category.

“For any analyst, much less someone his vintage, to appear in this ranking is a very big deal,” says Bauer finance professor Tom George, who teaches the securities-analysis course that manages the Cougar Fund.

Wangler says modestly that the WSJ citation was a “total surprise.”

“I just got an email out of the blue,” he explains. “And it said, ‘Hey, you are in the running for one of our better stock pickers, and here’s the criteria we have, and just verify that your numbers look correct.’ ” After answering the questionnaire about his trading record, he says, “I was fortunate enough to be number four out of 126 or so analysts across the Street.”

Wangler and his old Cougar Fund buddies say their time on the Bauer fund prepared them for their jobs today.  “A lot of the stuff that I do here at my job was kind of developed there,” says Wangler, now vice president for energy and petroleum equity research at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

Unlike most student-run funds in the United States, Bauer’s Cougar Investment Fund, L.L.C., is managed for private investors rather than on behalf of the university.  Established in 2002, the multimillion-dollar fund provides experience in professional investment fund management to master’s level Finance and MBA students.

“Not very many schools offer this type of program, and to have that right around the corner in a school you are attending was an amazing thing,” says Sergi, who is now TPC Group’s manager, treasury services.

“I don’t think I was ready to be an analyst without my experience on the Cougar Fund,” says Detwiler, now a fixed-income portfolio manager with the Houston firm of Garcia Hamilton & Associates.  “The companies I had worked for, Franklin Templeton and Invesco, each managed hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. I was a cog in the machine. I had my role, and it was clearly defined.”

Not so with the Cougar Fund, Detwiler says.

“Working for the Cougar Fund, you really get to see the entire asset management experience in a total picture. As a student analyst and portfolio manager, you are responsible for everything — from coming up with trade ideas, analyzing securities, presenting your recommendations and executing the trades for the portfolio to explaining your process and performance to clients and prospects. In a large firm, all those jobs might be several positions. But at the Cougar Fund, you have the opportunity to do everything.”

“It was really, really a great program,” Wangler says. “And that was really when I discovered that I wanted to be involved in the stock market.”