Pages

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Michigan Alpha Project: The Ultimate ‘Made in Michigan’

The Michigan Alpha Project:
The Ultimate ‘Made in Michigan’

There’s an unexpected emerging market in North America that has a market capitalization larger than either Indonesia or Thailand, and larger than Ireland and Israel combined. That emerging market is Michigan.

From November 2012 to November 2013, Michigan employment rose at double the rate of U.S. employment growth. Companies headquartered in Michigan have experienced good returns (25.2% annualized versus 20.93% on the S&P 500) since 03/06/2009. Additionally, these Michigan companies represent a diverse number of industries that are now competing across the globe.

This exciting trend and its breadth of opportunity for growth has inspired me.

Beginning this year, in collaboration with Walsh College, I am personally funding a $100,000 student-run investment portfolio that will consist exclusively of companies headquartered in Michigan. This new program is called the Michigan Alpha Project, or “MAP.”

Why would I do this, you ask? First, I want to create a real-life experience for students. In today’s competitive business environment, real-life experiences are a key contributor to real-world success. MAP brings this ideal experience to life.

Here’s how it works. After being presented with a request for proposal, as is the standard in the industry, the student teams, comprised of a dedicated portfolio manager and analysts, presented their investment strategies to me and some of my colleagues at LJPR.

In the first ever competition, which took place as we transitioned from 2013 to 2014, I had a difficult time selecting my “financial firm” from highly qualified teams, composed of Walsh College Investment Club members. But, in the end, I did so. To provide experience to a broader group, while the winning team runs my portfolio, the runner up will be running a “shadow portfolio,” or back-up plan, in case the winning team does not perform as expected.

If that’s not real-world enough, the students will be utilizing my second inspiration for starting the MAP, Walsh College’s state-of-the art finance lab. Established in 2013 and modeled after the trading rooms on Wall Street, this authentic lab has everything students need to accurately assess and make decisions regarding investment transactions.

So, students do their research, present a portfolio thesis to an experienced wealth manager and then manage his money. What better experience can you have?

My second reason for starting the MAP is Michigan, my home. Michigan is a remarkable state with remarkable people. It is a state of cars, technology, beauty and opportunity. It is a state where a machine repairman and a waitress in Hazel Park can raise their son to become an entrepreneur and eventually build a wealth management firm with $626 million in assets under management (as of 12/31/13).

My love of Michigan is the reason I am working to support the education and retention of its best and brightest minds. I don’t want our young talent leaving home for Chicago or New York. I want them here, where they can be great neighbors and make our state better for generations to come. I want to hire the best and brightest and I want the thousands of great companies in Michigan to have access to the best and brightest.

I was a department chair at Walsh College over 30 years ago. While there, I had the privilege of establishing one of the first Master of Science in Finance programs in the country. My dream was to see the finance department become as recognized nationally as the highly acclaimed tax and accounting programs. That dream still lives. I want to see great Walsh CFP® and CFA programs, I want to hire some of those graduates, and I want to help others land fruitful and interesting jobs at businesses throughout Michigan. With Walsh’s proven successes, dedicated faculty and shining students, I see my dream becoming reality.

But journeys begin with a single step. MAP is that step. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

For more information about the MAP and its students, visit www.michiganalphaproject.org.

Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice

Leon