The Practicum in Finance
The Practicum is an intensive program that spans the last half of the fall semester and the first half of the spring semester. Students work directly with sponsoring companies on a wide variety of finance problems.
Students may indicate an area of interest for their practicum project in early fall. Students work in small groups under the supervision of the MSF program director to complete the project, earning practical experience and developing a strong relationship with corporations and potential employers.
The MSF program director and Finance Department faculty work with various finance-related organizations to design projects that are valuable to MSF students and benefit the sponsoring group. Projects are designed to be accomplished within the Practicum time frame and culminate in a written report and presentation of work to the sponsoring company and program faculty.
2015-2016 Practicum Projects
- Strattam Capital
Strattam Capital is an Austin-based PE fund with a specialty in IT investments. Students will do a top-down analysis of a subset space in the IT industry, and in the course of their analysis students will find 3 stocks that they like, and they will make a pitch to Strattam Capital on why they like the stocks. Idea generation and pitching ideas is a required skill for investing, and this project provides students with the opportunity to work on their idea generation and pitch skills with benefit of feedback from Strattam principals.
- Durbin Bennet
The goal of this project will be to explore if there are diversification benefits to allocating a traditional stock and bond portfolio to MLPs. As part of this exploration there needs to be an understanding of the various sub-industries within the MLP space (downstream, midstream, upstream, and other) as well as the tax structure associated with it and how that impacts investor preferences. Having a clear understanding of the factors that help drive the return for this asset class and the stability of those factors (i.e. oil/natural gas/coal) is within the scope of this project. Final deliverable will be a research paper write-up, and a presentation of results to principals at Durbin Bennet.
- Castle Hill Advisors
Project will be in the area of wealth management / portfolio construction and risk/return for individual investors, and the final project will be determined after initial discussions with Mr. Peterson. Possible topics include: (1) research into risk/return metrics for long-term portfolios containing different weights on basic assets, stocks, bonds, cash, commodities, real estate, and the possible use of S&P puts and calls; (2) constructing portfolios to withstand a possible increase in interest rates; (3) the effect of long-term demographics, both domestically and abroad, on expected returns on various asset classes. Final deliverable to include a research paper and a client presentation deck for use by Castle Hill Advisors.
- Wells Fargo Advisors
Interest rates across the world have been on a steady decline for the last 30 years, and since 2008 the Federal Reserve has kept the basic interest rate that it controls, the Fed Funds rate, at 0.0% - 0.25%. Just recently the Fed has started to talk seriously about raising the Fed Funds rate off of the 0.0% target for the first time since 2009, and many investors expect the Fed to increase Fed Funds at the upcoming December meeting (the fed funds futures market is pricing in a 70% chance of a 25 bp rate hike). Market watchers also know that if history is a guide, an increase at the December meeting will likely be the first of many 25 bp increases; the Fed has never just increased once.
Wells Fargo Advisors has many clients intensely interested in the possible effects of a Fed Funds increase on their portfolios, the market, and the economy as a whole. The MSF practicum group will research the possible effects of a Fed Funds increase in particular and rising interest rates in general. The team will look at the likely effects of rising interest rates on stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, and energy investments. After analyzing the effects of an interest rate increase across the investable products, the team will analyze the probability of a sustained increase in interest rates both in the U.S. and in the international markets. The final deliverable will be a research paper and a client presentation deck suitable for use by Well Fargo Advisors.
- Claro Consulting Group
Project description provided by sponsor - Mr. Jeff Andrien
Claro Practicum - Running our marketing activities and results through rigorous financial analyses, to include:
[A] Go through financial case data to determine: (1) profitability per case, (2) break-even marketing spend for a new case (on average, or by type), (3) calculate CLV, customer lifetime value.
[B] Review marketing activities and spend, to address: (1) are our efforts driving value? (2) which efforts have best return on investment? (3) based on analysis, how should Claro prioritize marketing activities and spend to get best bang for the buck.
[C] Review website analysis (Google analytics) with a goal of developing a brand-building strategy.
- Texas Employee Retirement System Pension Fund (ERS)
This real estate project will start with a one-day (Friday TBD) real estate boot camp class taught by Dr. Hallman, including basic urban economics, commercial real estate valuation and analysis, and the structure and analysis of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Real Estate Provate Equity (REPE). Following the boot camp class the group will have a kick-off meeting with the project sponsors at ERS, Mr. Bob Sessa and Mr. Tony Cordona, who run real estate investing at ERS.
For the project work, students (working in pairs) will analyze a REIT, produce a basic stock analyst report on the REIT, and pitch their investment analysis to the real estate investment principals at ERS. After the REIT pitch the group will analyze a real estate private equity investment and produce a group analysis and bid price.
- EBIO - Houston Tech Center Company
Ebio is a biofuel startup company with a proven technology to increase ethanol production by applying a patent-pending process. We take the fermented waste and add an additional 20% to the yield, which translates into $12 billion in added revenue to the industry. In recent years, revenues from ethanol production have been similar to the cost of production, providing no net profit to the industry. Ebio can widen the profit margin.
Ebio needs a basic strategic analysis and plan for going forward. Students will begin their project work with an analysis of the production and sale of ethanol fuels, What drives demand? What drives price? What drives costs and profits? How does Ebio's technology fit into the profitability of the current production and sales cycle?
After analyzing the market the group will construct a model of Ebio's business (essentially a valuation model) that can be used to analyze the value of different strategic plans for the business going forward. Excellent project concerning the energy markets and the value of new technology in those markets.
- FirstDown Playbook
Charlie Coiner, a former offensive, defensive, and special teams co-ordinator at the pro and college levels, has a website called firstdownplaybook.com that shows offensive and defensive formations and plays. Mr. Coiner has been talking with both Microsoft and the NFL about licensing opportunities, and has also had a preliminary discussions with a well-funded website that collects and distributes game films for all levels of school and little-league sports. Mr. Coiner needs a business plan for a stand-alone entity, and then an analysis of possible deal structures for working with a well-funded partner. The student group will construct a model of the business (essentially a valuation model) to determine values under various strategic scenarios. Final deliverable will be a pitch deck or series of pitch decks for Mr. Coiner to use as he approaches investors or possible partners.
- Integrated Bionics - Houston Tech Center Company
For busy coaches who aren't computer scientists, but seek to use sophisticated technology to improve training outcomes and reduce head injuries, we provide a micro-sensor and simple, yet detailed and actionable analytics to help coaches not just train harder, but train smarter. In 2014 the sports/fitness performance wearables markets was at $3.5B, and estimated at $15B by 2021. Coaches and directors are creating new budgets to fulfill teams' needs for technology. For example Trinity University raised new money to buy and use HeadsUp in its 2015 record breaking championship season. We sell sensor team sets directly to organizations with tiered freemium subscriptions. Combining extensive experience in sensor and medical technology with sports know-how, Integrated Bionic's team is positioned for rapid customer acquisition and growth.
Integrated Bionics needs a basic strategic analysis and plan for moving forward. The MSF student group will analyze customer targets, competition, and the best possible avenues for acquiring customers and maximizing value from each customer. Integrated is particularly interested in pricing, and how pricing may affect customers acquisitions and value. The group will construct a spreadsheet model of the business and analyze the values of possible strategies going forward.
Employers interested in participating in our Practicum by submitting a project should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.