Carlson School unveils financial markets lab

by Peter Frost

Justin Costley
The Carlson School’s main atrium transformed into a cocktail lounge Tuesday night, replete with hors d’oeuvres, bottles of wine and a five-piece jazz band.
Dapperly dressed students, faculty members, administrators and community business executives gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Carlson School of Management’s refurbished financial markets lab, a research center chock with high-tech, high-dollar equipment.
“This is a great milestone for the Carlson School,” said University President Mark Yudof. “A lot of hard work went into this facility and it does, I think, increase the recognition and prestige of the Carlson School.”
Several corporate donations financed the lab, including major gifts American Express Financial Advisors and Bridge Information Systems.
The facility is equipped with twelve permanent, networked computer workstations and the capacity for 20 laptop, Internet-ready hook-ups, a trading and research area rivaling that of top investment firms.
It also contains a Bloomberg information terminal, a staple for any financial market or business researcher, that, among other things, provides real-time stock quotes and can be customized to track the financial activity of specific stocks.
Laden with equipment, the small room has the feel of a big-time trading area, especially with its two flat-panel screens and an up-to-the-second digital ticker machine installed on its walls,
The lab isn’t for show or practice. It’s home to the Golden Gopher Growth Fund, the second largest student-run mutual fund in terms of assets.
The fund, consisting of more than 25 small to micro-cap stocks, is managed by 20 second-year MBA students with the aid of local business community mentors.
Since an initial $3 million investment in May 1998, the growth fund grew to a net worth of more than $4 million in December 1999, outperforming several Wall Street benchmarks.
After a slow start in its first year with single-digits returns, the Golden Gopher Growth Fund took off in 1999 with a gain of 70.2 percent, beating all major market indices except for the Nasdaq.
Those overseeing the fund say that the fund’s success depends heavily on the tools and information accessible in the financial markets lab.
“I don’t think (GGGF’s success) would have been possible without this lab,” said finance professor Tim Nantell.
“If you are going to run a fund this seriously, you have to have access to all of the information that professional money managers have, and you have to have it all in one location,” he said.
Professors and administrators say the refurbished lab is essential to providing hands-on, real-world experience.
“There’s only so much you can do in business school in terms of learning things in an academic setting,” said student fund manager Matt Dudley. “It’s real-world experience in a controlled academic environment.”
Carlson School Dean David Kidwell said the uniqueness of the financial lab and the student-run growth fund will attract more high-quality students to the program and give graduates with more marketability.
“We’ll have the ability to place people in jobs in places like Wall Street,” Kidwell said.
Although undergraduate students don’t have access inside the doors of the financial lab, a new interactive computer station is available for checking stock quotes and market information.
Initially, the main function of the financial markets lab will be the maintenance of the student-run mutual fund, but in the future, Dudley said both undergraduate and graduate students will have access to the lab.

Peter Frost and Justin Costley cover business and welcome comments to [email protected] and [email protected]