Investment Club Works to Better Represent Urban Values

Callum Yeaman, Staff Writer

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From the first time I heard about the Investment Club, a student-run club that manages a small fortune of just under 130,000 dollars, I have been skeptical about what the Investment Club entails, and have found myself wondering what the Lunchtime club is investing in under Urban’s name. Although many other independent schools in the Bay Area such as Lick-Wilmerding High School, University High School, and The Bay School have similar organizations, they spend their time working through stock stimulations, and the Urban Investment Club is the only one that works with real money.

Through my investigation, I learned that the club is split into two branches: the Investment Club, and the Investment Board. The lunchtime Club, which is open to any Urban student who wishes to join, spends most of its time working through stock simulations, going over strategies for investment, and practicing personal money management. It is the Investment Board, a circle of 9 or 10 Urban Students, who are the ones tasked with the management of the 130,000 dollar sum.

William Denton ‘20, the president of the Investment Club and Board, describes the Investment board as, “The people [in the club] who take initiative to show up on a daily basis to do the best work that they can… a group of people who are really passionate about finding the best ways and strategies to invest. ”

Nathan Susser ‘20, the current Treasurer, and former President of the Club and Board says, “there’s a big difference between using real money and using something like a stock situation, without real stakes or money to manage.” He believes that managing real money is essential to the learning of the club members.

Susser says he believes a lot of people at Urban have the misconception that the investment club is “just a group of people who are out there to make money.” Although this might have aptly described the group a few years ago, he said that “the culture of the club has changed a lot from when we first founded it. The focus has switched from making as much money as possible to learning about investment and money management, and making [the Investment Club] accessible to as many people as possible.”

In the past, the Investment Board has been criticized for its lack of diversity consisting of predominantly white upper-class male students. However, Susser explained that the Club is working hard to improve in this area.

“We definitely have more diversity now in the club then we did in the past,” Susser said. Now, out of the 9 members on the board, 3 are female and 6 are male, an improvement from the clubs male-dominated past.

In addition to facing scrutiny over its lack of diversity, members of the Urban community have raised concerns over the efficacy of its stock investments. Denton explained that rather than picking stocks in which to invest individually, the investment club invests in small pieces of the SNP 500, a prominent index fund. An index fund is a safe and reliable method of investment that tracks and projects the overall market of investment in the United States. Investing in the S&P 500 also means that the Club isn’t actually picking which companies they are invested in themselves. Making decisions based on the most projectable stock in the market can mean sacrificing Urban values for monetization. “It’s very hard to find a company that’s like an angel,” Denton said. “All companies have things that they have done wrong, because at the end of the day for a lot of companies, the goal is the lowest price for the materials they require.”

Susser says that in the future, he hopes the Investment Club can work towards investing in more companies that are more environmentally and socially conscious. “There’s been a big push [in the general investment community] to be more aware of that impact companies have on the environment and the communities that they are in,” Susser said. “That’s something I want to bring more of to the club. We have $130,000 now, so we should be spending that in a wise way that correlates with Urban values.”

Last year, Susser drafted and passed a new amendment to the club’s by-laws (the “Constitution of the Investment Club”), requiring the Club to consider each new investment from an environmental and social standpoint. However, Susser says that divesting in a large number of stocks based on environmental standards all at once could be a dangerous financial move for the Club.

“I didn’t want a lot of change immediately,” Susser said, but he believes that over time, “as we invest and divest in better companies slowly, and look at our investments from a socially responsible standpoint, our club will slowly change to become something that’s really helping the world.”