Harvard Investment Clubs Brace For Crisis

Acumen Financial Association sees gains amid Wall Street Crisis

For some students, this financial crisis will hit hard. In addition to losing potential jobs, students who belong to one of a slew of “investment clubs” may be losing real money as well.

Acumen Financial Association is one of Harvard’s many pre-professional investment clubs, but it is probably one of the least well known. A select group of seven undergraduates pooled thousands of dollars—at least $1,000 each—and invest and manage those funds in the market.

The nearly 800-point nose dive in the Dow Jones on Monday was enough to make even the most experienced fund managers wince. But Acumen, it seems, weathered the storm with a smile on their face.

“We had a very, very good day,” said Vikram R. Modi ’09, co-president of the group.

Modi said that the group held short positions on several baskets of securities that contained industries affected by the market plunge on Monday.

This instance of short selling—a strategy that allows traders to profit from the decline in the price of a stock—is not covered under a recent ban by the Securities and Exchange Commission on certain types of shorts.

Unlike some other investment clubs, Acumen seeks more than just practice from their relatively modest foray into the world of financial management: they hope to make a profit.

Modis said that although the fund has exceeded the performance of their benchmark index, the S&P 500, they have maintained a conservative and cool-headed approach to money management.

“I think it’s really important to make sure that you don’t think you have an edge when you really don’t,” Modi said. “Just make sure that you understand that there are a lot of people who are so much more talented that I could ever be and are doing this every day.”

Many of these student funds are researched and managed part-time by undergraduates who don’t necessarily provide their own money.

Smart Women Securities, a student group that seeks to educate women about how to manage money has a fund donated by alumni and sponsors.

More than 150 associates complete extensive market research on three separate funds. Another group of 13 money managers meet weekly to make final decisions on the positions of crucial holdings.

Kayley E. Laren ’09, the chief investment officer for the group admits that their funds have taken a hit in the market in recent months.

“I think for sure we expect that some of our investments will suffer losses and will continue to [do so],” she said.

But she insists that they are still taking advantage of the opportunities that are available in niche markets and lesser known companies.

“Those things have helped us see positive returns,” she said.

—Staff writer Abby D. Phillip can be reached at