Financial Champions

SPIFFY wins portfolio competition

SPIFFY, the Maine Business School’s student investment club, has won first-place in a rigorous, worldwide portfolio competition.

The competition was part of the Quinnipiac Global Asset Management Education (GAME) VIII forum March 22–24 in New York City, in which 1,500 students from more than 160 colleges and universities around the globe had the opportunity to interact with industry leaders and learn best practices in investment strategy.

An important feature of the annual event is the portfolio competition, which compares the performance of student managed investment funds. Each college investment team submitted its portfolio account statements along with asset holdings.

“This is the first time SPIFFY has won this challenging competition and so it is a very significant success,” says Sebastian Lobe, MBS associate professor of finance and SPIFFY co-adviser, who accompanied 14 student members to this year’s GAME forum.

“Since portfolio performance is measured by evaluating the monthly returns during the calendar year 2017, the award pays homage to SPIFFY members from the last academic year as well as from the current year.”

Co-president and finance major John Laperle ’19 says the award “demonstrates how SPIFFY is in the top tier of student managed portfolios.”

SPIFFY (Student Portfolio Investment Fund) is one of the most visible groups on campus. It is entirely student-run and oversees nearly $3 million for the University of Maine Foundation. The club was established in 1993 with a donation of $200,000. With more than 50 undergraduate members from a variety of disciplines, SPIFFY meets weekly to discuss changes to its portfolio.

The club’s big moment came during the awards ceremony on March 23 when SPIFFY’s win for the category of “value portfolio” was the first to be announced, Lobe says.

“What a joyful surprise and what wonderful timing since SPIFFY celebrates its 25th anniversary this September,” he says.

Lobe credits SPIFFY’s victory with a new, stronger focus on value investing – buying stocks at sale prices.

“Changing our strategy was a dynamic process with lots of discussion as you can imagine,” he says. “The 2017 SPIFFY portfolio has clearly beaten the S&P 500 Value Index on a risk-adjusted basis. We ended up outperforming the value benchmark with higher returns and lower risk.”

“I’m very proud of SPIFFY’s win,” says finance major Dale Hartt ’19, who came away from the financial conference with valuable information about portfolio growth strategies.

Former MBS finance professor and SPIFFY founder Bob Strong, who led trips to the GAME forum each year from 2000 until his retirement in 2015, says he “always enjoyed seeing UMaine students rub shoulders with participants from much larger schools and proudly point out that the
SPIFFY funds were considerably larger than theirs.”

He is not surprised by the recent win.

“Fund performance over the past 18 months has been excellent,” he says. “For the trailing 12 months ending in February, SPIFFY advanced 18.5%, which outperformed a 70% S&P/30% bond mix by a remarkable 650 basis points.  In the investment world that doesn’t happen very often.”

Meanwhile, Lobe is already thinking about next year’s GAME forum. “The calendar year 2018 returns will determine our rank,” he says. “The logic on Wall Street is straightforward. If you do not deliver superior returns as a fund manager, you lose your customers and then your job. Seen in this light, SPIFFY delivers students a great educational and real-life opportunity.” n

Also serving as SPIFFY co-adviser is finance and accounting lecturer Matt Skaves.