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Titan Spotlight

CSUF Finance Students Win Investment Research Competition Third Year in a Row

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By Daniel Coats ’15, ’18

The high caliber of Cal State Fullerton finance students was on display as undergrads affiliated with Titan Capital Management (TCM), the real-money stock and bond portfolio at CSUF, took top honors in the Chartered Financial Analyst Los Angeles region chapter’s Investment Research Competition in February.

The competition challenges students to research, analyze and value a publicly traded company, and they present their findings to a panel of judges, who are industry professionals. Students are evaluated on their report writing, presentation skills and the quality of their research.

This is the third consecutive victory for Titan investment students, tying the record for consecutive first-place finishes set by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo from 2014 to 2016.

Four Finance Students Sweep to Top Spot

Finance seniors Alexandra Mendoza ’22, John Gomez ’22, Connor Joe ’22 and Eira Tobrand ’22 comprised the winning team, while Titan Capital Management Equity Director Kelly Ko served as faculty advisor, and Poplar Forest Capital partner Derek Derman was a professional mentor.

The Titan team surpassed graduate-level teams from Pepperdine University, UCLA and Claremont Graduate University, as well as undergrad cohorts from Loyola Marymount University, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Next stop for the Titan investment team: The West subregional round, scheduled for April 7-8, 2022. Should the students continue their winning streak, the Americas Global Final on April 28 will be the next competition before a final Global Final on May 16.

The TCM Difference

While applied investment programs are becoming more common at universities in the 2020s, the experience and diversity of faculty and TCM’s extensive professional network set the CSUF program apart.

“TCM and the Student Managed Investment Program offer significant value to students in preparing them for careers in the investment-management industry. Students learn and participate in best practices, such as managing real assets, being accountable for presenting and reporting to a board, researching companies and industries, and writing research recommendations,” explains Ko.

“Few universities have applied investment programs that are run by hands-on faculty – with practitioner experience in the field – and by a diverse board of practitioners in equity, fixed income and other areas, who engage with and mentor students.”

Managing Director Marcia Lucas notes that the one-unit Student Managed Investment Program (SMIF) course – which is often where TCM students get started – also serves as a bridge for students from underrepresented groups to become well-versed in the world of corporate and personal finance.

“SMIF can change a student’s entire perspective on the possibilities available to them. Because the course has few prerequisites and can be repeated up to three times, students often progress from knowing very little about financial markets to becoming leaders and coaches to peers who are new to investing,” says Lucas. “The discipline taught in the TCM programs can be applied to all aspects of a student’s life, benefiting their families and communities, and providing a strong foundation for future careers in finance.”

Mendoza, who was introduced to TCM through her mentor in the Executive in Residence program, Scott Coler ’85, notes the personal and professional growth that comes from involvement in TCM: “You have actual responsibilities and manage real money. The program is a huge step up from the typical classroom experience.”

She notes the importance of being open-minded to thrive in this environment.

“We are managing the school’s money; this is not a drill. The board of directors are industry practitioners, and they will give you feedback that is designed to help you improve. The only way you progress in the program is to learn to understand and improve at a high level. This concept is something that applies to anything in life. You won’t adapt and overcome hardships unless you are open and willing.”

Jeff Van Harte ’80, CSUF alumnus and donor and supporter of the TCM program, says students “are obtaining a sophisticated approach to analyzing companies and markets, acquiring the communication skills to present their analysis in written and oral form, and graduating with a knowledge base that sets them apart from other undergraduate business majors; this enables them to compete for a higher paying job.”

Van Harte sees the applied experience of making real capital decisions as a distinctive of the program. “This is not a ‘just-for-fun’ paper portfolio,” he says. “TCM manages $3 million of real assets with the mandate of giving back to the university to support the program. There is real fiduciary duty here, unlike many other programs that don’t have real capital to invest.”

For More on Titan Capital Management

Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Capital Management programs enable finance students and other Titans interested in stock market careers to manage actual investment portfolios in consultation with the Orange County chapter of the Chartered Financial Analyst organization.

From researching investments during the ups and downs of equity markets to presenting results at competitions, conferences and events, CSUF investment students gain valuable experience as portfolio managers, financial analysts, brokers and traders.

For more information, reach out to or call 657-278-8179. Or read more of our articles on CSUF investment education.

Daniel Coats