How Johnson Provides a Unique Platform for the Development of Passionate, Skilled Investors

by Christoper Kissane, MBA ’13

Christoper Kissane, MBA '13

Chris explains why matriculating at Johnson has been the best investment he’s made to date

I applied to business school to begin a transition. I would enter as an accountant and hope to emerge just two years later as an investor. I started the process by enrolling in Johnson, and it’s the most significant investment I’ve made to date.

Investors (I’m told) care about return on investment. And economically, the value proposition of a Johnson MBA is simple: 1) Arrive at school; 2) Receive diploma; 3) Double your salary (give or take). But, in the long run, employers don’t pay for degrees; they pay for talent, skill, and work ethic. They pay for human capital. And that is where Johnson adds value – by providing a unique platform for the development and nourishment of passionate, talented, and skilled investors.

I’ll give you a glimpse of what I mean. At Johnson we get started fast – as a member of the Investment Management Club, I pitched a stock to a roomful of forty people just weeks after arriving on campus. We get real-world experience – as a first-year sector analyst for the Cayuga Fund, I covered the transportation industry, pitched new stocks into the fund, worked with state-of-the-art financial technology, and received mentoring from second-year portfolio managers. And we get high profile exposure – as a contestant in the 2011 MBA Stock Pitch Challenge, I presented in front of world-class portfolio managers, recruiters, journalists, and prominent alums. And that was just my first semester.

In the spring, I entered the CMAM immersion. After a January tour of major banks, hedge funds, and mutual fund shops in New York and Boston, we returned to Ithaca to begin a deep dive into valuation techniques, financial modeling, financial statement analysis, and portfolio management. The CMAM Practicum prepared us for our internships in two ways: first, through a series of guest lectures from practitioners on topics ranging from economic theory to investment philosophy to day-to-day life as a distressed debt trader; and second, through a performance-learning component wherein every CMAM student was assigned an industry to cover for the Cayuga Fund. We were responsible for monitoring the fund’s holdings; pitching new investments; and discussing market developments, strategy, and risk management in class.

After nine months filled with hard work, challenging courses, and smart classmates, I left Ithaca in May to begin an internship as a fixed income analyst at a mutual fund. My first year at Johnson had transformed me from a relative novice into a capable, conversant, skilled professional. I was able to contribute immediately and spent the summer analyzing leveraged loans and high-yield bond deals.

As a second-year student, I am serving as a Cayuga Fund portfolio manager, covering consumer cyclicals. The Cayuga Fund program mimics the functioning of an actual hedge fund. Our team of 16 portfolio managers meets in a seminar style class to discuss performance, open or close positions, and review relevant academic papers on valuation, quant strategies, and finance theory. In what time I have away from the fund, I take a full set of classes, serve as an officer in the Investment Management Club, mentor first-years, and enjoy life as a student.

With every week that passes at Johnson I feel that I am growing, learning, and developing as an investor. In May, I hope to leave Cornell for a full-time buy-side position, my transition complete.