Temple Owl Fund: The money is real

Posted: April 02, 2013

Class starts with an outlook on the U.S. economy and consumer confidence, and then the analyst's sales pitch begins: Will the fund be spending its precious dollars buying shares of VF Corp. (VFC), maker of North Face, Nautica, Timberland and Vans fashions and Lee and Wrangler jeans?

The fund just bought 75 shares in Qualcomm (QCOM) last week at $65.84, making a bet on a rebound in 2013 sales of chips for mobile handsets. And in April, the investment committee will hear a pitch for Caterpillar Inc. (CAT).

Welcome to Wall Street at Broad & Cecil. The Temple Owl Fund is now a real-live money-management operation.

In September 2012, student members of Temple's William C. Dunkelberg Owl Fund began managing real dollars - not a mock portfolio. They are investing approximately $120,000 in donations received expressly for learning about the business. Among the Owl Fund's first purchases were shares of Energizer Holdings (ENR). The fund has now grown to $150,000 and recently sold Energizer, CenturyLink (CTL), just prior to a dividend cut, and Microsoft (MSFT), Humana (HUM) and Ryder System Inc. (R).

The Owl Fund is also a separately managed piece - about 0.7 percent, actually - of the Temple University endowment, and was named for Dunkelberg, a former dean of the Fox School of Business. The investment committee of Temple's Board of Trustees approved the transition to investing real money (ahem . . . they are always open to new donors).

Temple University's own endowment rose 19 percent to $280 million in fiscal year 2011 and lost 1 percent to end fiscal 2012 at $277 million, according to public figures from NACUBO, the National Association for College and University Business Officers.The Owl Fund is a key tool at the Fox School that is open to all students at Temple, regardless of major.

Through the Temple University Investment Association, students learn the basics of investing and identify companies for the fund's portfolio. The students selected as Owl Fund managers are mastering the basics of value investing, are responsible for writing and presenting research coverage for these companies, and continually monitor the performance of their sector.

They also grapple with state-of-the-art investment software in the Capital Markets Room in Alter Hall, monitor CNBC and Bloomberg terminals and even have their own "ticker," keeping track of holdings of the Owl Fund.

Cindy Axelrod, faculty adviser to the Temple University Investment Association and director of the Owl Fund, is a signer for accounts on behalf of the fund. The Fox School hired Axelrod, a chartered financial analyst, as an assistant professor of finance, director of the Owl Fund and the lead professor for Owl Fund Seminar I and II. Axelrod joined Fox with decades of professional experience as a senior securities analyst and portfolio manager at Glenmede, BlackRock, 1838 Investments Advisors L.P., and Friess Associates of Delaware, L.L.C.

"It is truly a student-run investment fund, with the students preparing and presenting three investment recommendations per semester, along with ongoing responsibilities to update and re-evaluate their selected stocks as new information becomes available," says Axelrod.

The Owl Fund's discipline is to sell once a position has dropped 10 percent over a period of five days, and no position is more than 5 percent of the portfolio.

For more information visit the web site: http://www.theowlfund.com.

Erin Arvedlund is a finance reporter in Philadelphia. Contact her at 646-797-0759 or erinarvedlund@yahoo.com. Read more of her columns at www.philly.com/arvedlund.

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