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Finance course opens the world of hedge funds

Areas of Study , Coursework , Faculty , Finance Stories | May 01, 2012 |

by Daniel Keyes (GSB ’12)

For Gabelli students with an interest in hedge funds, a new class taught by Professor Kevin Mirabile provides insight into this opaque but fascinating asset class. Drawing from his experience across multiple industries — accounting, commercial and investment banking, and hedge funds — Professor Mirabile has constructed a curriculum that blends an academic foundation with guest lectures from practitioners.

Among the most recent guest lecturers was Ron Suber, senior partner and director of marketing at Merlin Securities. Merlin, which will be purchased by Wells Fargo in a deal announced last week, specializes in prime brokerage and technology services for hedge funds and is one of the leading custodial firms for funds with assets under $1 billion. Mr. Suber discussed his firm’s role in the industry, explained the competitive landscape for hedge fund managers, and provided advice on how students can differentiate themselves in the highly competitive financial services industry.

Hedge Funds guest lecturer Ron Suber of Merlin Securities

Mr. Suber’s lecture wrapped up the third and final segment of the class, which addressed how investors select hedge fund managers within their respective category/strategy. The previous segment had offered a glimpse inside actual hedge funds, featuring guest speakers from Edenbrook Capital, Brencourt Capital and WingSail Capital and a field trip to Balyasny Asset Management in midtown Manhattan. That had been preceded, in turn, by the course’s introductory segment, which detailed the type of patrons who invest in hedge funds. One of the speakers for the introductory portion was Fordham’s chief investment officer, Eric Wood.

Taken together, the course’s three segments provide a comprehensive viewpoint from which to analyze hedge fund investment opportunities, culminating in a final project that incorporates all the elements. In this last assignment, students take the perspective of an investor and develop a market outlook, select an appropriate hedge fund strategy, conduct due diligence on potential funds, and allocate the funds of a given portfolio. It gives them a chance to conduct a comprehensive analysis of hedge fund investments while mimicking the decision-making process of an actual investor.

Students do not underestimate the value of guest speakers in the Hedge Funds course, especially because many provide information about how these and similar firms hire. “We’ve met eight to 10 active industry professionals, and we are always given all of their contact information with sincere encouragement to contact them and get a dialog going,” said Michael Smith (GSB ’12).

Alissa Brunetti (GSB ’12), who has an internship at the publicly traded hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, attests to the class’s real-world value: “I can think of more than one occasion when a trader or an asset manager has been noticeably taken aback by my ability to hold a relevant conversation about various aspects of the hedge fund industry, and I credit this class entirely.”

Professor Mirabile hopes to continue to help Gabelli differentiate itself from other undergraduate business schools. He plans, as a next step, to roll out an alternative investments society in the fall.

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