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Friday, November 12, 2010 - New club gives students SAIFE investment experiences

The School of Business Administration's new student investment club has a two-fold goal.


Not only is the Society for Applied Investing and Financial Education (SAIFE) student organization designed to teach students the basics of financial investing, it strives to help members avoid potentially devastating financial missteps by offering them a safe way to practice their new-found skills.


“It’s really to give students exposure to decision-making in investments before graduation,” says Ryan Firman, SBA ’10, who co-founded SAIFE last summer with fellow SBA students Vincent Asmar and Chris Becker.


“We started it from the ground up,” says Asmar, a senior finance major. “There aren’t a lot of student organizations geared toward hands-on investing.”


In fact, during a students’ typical primary education there are few, if any, required finance-related courses. Through organizations like SAIFE, students can gain the experience and confidence that leads to good decisions, protecting them from debt and allowing them to build wealth.


Specifically, SAIFE offers a unique combination of portfolio management, guest speakers and faculty and professional advisor mentoring, all directed towards its goal to equip OU graduates with the basic tools required to help them build a stable and successful financial future.


During SAIFE’s pilot year, members collaborated with SBA Corporate Relations Director Donna Kellstrom and SBA faculty member Donna Free along with Steve Roberts, OU’s assistant vice president for investments, to obtain a nonprofit statute (501c3) to house investment funds.


Serving as a club mentor along the way was Satish Dharwadkar, a financial investment manager with Merrill Lynch, who guided the founding members through the organizational process.


“The launch of formal investment club, SAIFE, has been an important milestone for students, faculty and the SBA,” Dharwadkar says. “It gave the founding student board members a real world experience in developing a business plan, policy, operational framework and incorporating a new business entity through research and negotiations on many topics.


“Congratulations to Chris Becker, Ryan Firman and Vincent Asmar for their persistence for a successful launch with strong support from Dean Tanniru and his staff.”


For its initial activity, the members are using a collaborative approach to determine how to invest their first – and future -- contributions. SAIFE members will consult with OU professors and mentors from the business community as they make real money investments. “Everyone will present what they think should be in the portfolio, and the club will vote on it,” says Asmar.


Each semester, SAIFE also will host a stock competition where individual members will use a computer model to make mock investments based on real stock prices. The participant who realizes the highest returns at the end of each semester wins a prize.


“Individual decision-making is a good hands-on way to learn,” Asmar says. “Investing is something everyone can benefit from, regardless of their major.”


SAIFE’s investing activities, along with its other programs, reflect the SBA’s key foundation themes. The hands-on experience gained through managing a portfolio of real money ties in with the SBA’s goal of providing experiential learning opportunities, while the team collaboration, faculty advising and expert speakers demonstrate integrative thinking, another SBA priority. Through its activities, SAIFE also strives to create a true comprehension of the world economy, strengthening and supporting the SBA’s foundation of promoting global understanding.


The club has about 20 active members. Firman says he expects membership to increase now that the group has moved beyond its pilot year, which was focused more on creating an organizational structure and obtaining the club’s non-profit status.


Firman plans to stay involved as one of SAIFE’s trustees. “We’ll be focusing on long-term goals and career development while the student leaders handle year-to-year operations,” he says.


For more information about SAIFE, visit

By Flori Meeks