Blyth Fund allows students to invest college capital

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Stairs of the Arthur G Coons building. Alvin Edhitjia Siagian/The Occidental

Established in 1977 by Richard Link in honor of banker Charles R. Blyth, the Blyth Fund is a student-run investment portfolio at Occidental. A team of 14 students manages the Blyth Fund, which scored second place at Stanford Finance’s Stock Pitch Championship, an annual national competition. According to Director of Communications Jim Tranquada, one-third of the Fund’s net gains rolls into the College’s endowment. According to Blyth Fund President Nelson Rayl (senior), the Blyth Fund manages an investment worth $250,000, more than three times its starting value of $75,000.

According to the Blyth Fund’s website, its main goals are to educate Occidental students about investment management and to further grow the wealth of the Blyth Fund. The students managing the Blyth Fund have invested in companies including Google, Citigroup, Micron Tech and Disney, which have helped grow the wealth of the fund, according to Rayl.

“Finance, even though it’s not well understood by a lot of people, is behind a lot of things. And whether people realize it or not, it’s always there. It’s absolutely a huge part of the world that we live in,” Rayl said.

According to Rayl, Blyth Fund members join for different reasons, many of them educational. Though the college offers many courses and opportunities related to economics and finance, the Blyth Fund is unique in that it offers hands-on experience in investment management.

“There’s a lot of stuff related to finance that I only know because of my time on the Blyth Fund — how to pitch a stock to someone, how to read a financial report and different financial terms,” Rayl said.

According to Rayl, the majority of students join with little financial experience, and originally, he was one of those students. He believes the best part of the fund is the educational aspect, through which students who are new to finance learn from each other about how to invest.

“I really want to push this environment of accepted lack of knowledge of the whole field in general, and that we’re all going to learn this together,” Rayl said. “I certainly learn stuff every time a student gives a presentation. That’s what I think makes it fun and special.”

According to Blyth Fund Vice President Julian Caravantes (senior), one of the main misconceptions about the fund is that it is exclusively for students interested in economics.

“Different majors bring different things to our board. And you’ll see that a lot in investment management firms in real life as well,” Caravantes said.

According to Caravantes, future initiatives for the Blyth Fund include a speaker series on campus that will extend the fund’s educational impact at Occidental beyond solely Blyth Fund members. In the near future, the fund plans on hosting lectures with two notable Occidental alumni: the Vice President of a CITI San Francisco investment bank and former Chief Financial Officer on Disney’s corporate development team.

Blyth Fund Treasurer Jordan Walker (junior) said membership helps many students with their post-graduation career paths and professional networks. Walker shared that being on the Blyth Fund prepared him for uncertainty in future situations and projects. Walker said he learned how students coming from different disciplines could contribute to the Blyth Fund.

“Last year, the president of the fund was a biochemistry major. She was able to talk about why she didn’t like biopharmaceutical stocks,” Walker said. “Part of the liberal arts experience is bringing multiple perspectives into issues that one might think are singular, but they’re really not.”

Walker said he hoped the Blyth Fund would become more diverse in the future.

“I think the fund has certainly gotten better, but I hope that we can extend beyond just economics majors. We want to ensure that we are representative of the entire college, whether that is through majors, ethnic or racial backgrounds,” Walker said.

Emma Pond (junior) is a new director of the Blyth Fund. She said that the fund reflected the gender gap present in the field of economics.

“I hope that that will continue to evolve over time, and that we will get more women and people of color involved. I don’t think it fully reflects the student body by any means, but I really hope that, through ongoing conversations across campus, the fund will become more diverse. I definitely think it’s not there yet, but I hope it will be,” Pond said.

Pond shared that the Blyth Fund has contributed to the educational experience of many of its members at Occidental, as well as their future plans.

“I don’t know if investment analysis is what I want to go into the future. If I do, it’s obviously really helpful. If I don’t, it would still be really helpful experience. Learning a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis is really valuable in any field, and investment analysis is a really interesting way to get that experience,” Pond said.

The Blyth Fund application process begins in the spring semester, during which the Blyth Fund sends out a campus-wide email notification for fall semester membership. The application process includes a resume submission and questionnaire, followed by an interview. The number of spots available to new members is limited to the number of graduating or leaving fund members.

Pond said she recommended anyone interested in gaining investment management experience to apply for the Blyth Fund, regardless of their academic pursuits.

“I would encourage everyone to apply. You don’t have any experience with economics or investment, you just have to want to learn about it and invest some time into learning that process,” Pond said.