Student Managed Investment Fund Wins CFA Ethics Challenge

KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 15, 2021) — When faced with difficult choices, students in the Kennesaw State University Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF) proved that they can make the right decisions by taking first place in the recent CFA Society Atlanta Ethics Challenge.

The virtual event featured teams from five Atlanta-area universities reviewing a case study featuring several ethical dilemmas commonly faced by investment professionals. Each team provided their own breakdown of challenges described in the case and offered solutions and answered questions from a panel of professional chartered financial analysts judging their presentations.


"Ethics" by masondan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Kennesaw State SMIF students Luis Ramirez, Kathleen Smit, Chandler Geiger, Kamille Suarez-Paulino, and Amitai Ilan won the competition, which the CFA Society hosts at multiple chapters each year to “instill strong ethics in the next generation of investment professionals to help them prepare for a successful career,” according to competition materials.

While unethical investing can refer to serious crimes like accounting fraud, insider trading and Ponzi schemes, it often takes the form of minor breaches of trust like not informing a client about the true risk of an investment. The competition gives finance and economics students the opportunity to study their discipline from a different angle, one focused not only on maximizing profits and reducing losses, but on operating ethically.

 “I believe the competition gave us all a head start when it comes to thinking about ethics before our careers have officially started,” said Ramirez, an accounting major in the Michael J. Coles College of Business and the SMIF’s chief operating officer. “This will help us make the right decision if we are ever in a tricky situation.”

The team’s coach was Govind Hariharan, the SMIF’s faculty advisor and a professor in the Department of Economics, Finance, and Quantitative Analysis. He said ethics has always been a component of the SMIF’s philosophy.

“Ethical behavior has been a central, but often behind-the-scenes, discussion in the investment world just as it is in life,” Hariharan said. “The CFA Society Atlanta launching this competition provided us with a focal point to incorporate ethics more centrally into our training at SMIF. Preparing for the competition allowed them to study and practice how unethical situations arise, how to identify them, and how to avoid them.”

Not only did the Ethics Challenge reinforce the importance of ethics in investing, but it also helped the students gain confidence in making presentations to seasoned professionals and gave them the chance to network with CFA members on their career interests. Each team had to present their findings to the judges.

“The CFA Ethics challenge was an amazing experience that allowed me to hone my presentation skills and teamwork capabilities while also learning more about the moral and ethical standards that govern the financial services industry,” said Smit, SMIF’s strategic advisor of diversity initiatives and a finance major. “The case presented to us allowed my teammates and I to use our critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities to identify different ethical violations and come up with appropriate solutions.”

Launched in 2010 thanks to an initial investment of $100,000 from Henssler Financial, the Student Managed Investment Fund gives undergraduate students training in managing a real six-figure investment portfolio under the guidance of faculty and industry advisors. The students learn to conduct fundamental analysis on publicly traded equities and make investing decisions based on that research. 

-Patrick Harbin