Student investors at the University of Oregon are the winners of the sixth annual Fred Dickson Memorial Award from D.A. Davidson & Co.—the top award in the firm’s Student Investment Program.
The UO also completed the year with the second-best-performing portfolio, following the University of Idaho team portfolio.
According to the firm, the Fred Dickson Memorial Award, named in honor of D.A. Davidson’s long-time chief market strategist and advocate for investor education, is presented annually to the most outstanding participating school in the D.A. Davidson & Co. Student Investment Program.
“The D.A. Davidson portfolio has been part of our student investment groups for over two decades, so this is very special,” said associate professor of finance Stephen McKeon. McKeon serves as faculty advisor to the student-managed Masters Investment Group, and is the academic director of the Cameron Center for Finance and Securities Analysis as well as an Inman Research Scholar.
“For the University of Oregon to be selected for this award means a great deal to us,” McKeon added.
For the program, D.A. Davidson provides student teams from senior-level investment courses with $50,000 to invest in the stock market—for a total commitment of $1.05 million annually. Each team makes investment decisions with the guidance of a local D.A. Davidson financial advisor and manages the portfolio for one year, starting September 1. The program is designed to provide hands-on experience in finance, stock research, portfolio management, and investment topics.
D.A. Davidson provided the following portfolio breakdown:
During the 2019-2020 competition year (ended 8/31/20), the Ducks portfolio generated the second highest return of all competitors (+64.9%) and was well above the S&P 500 market index return of +21.9%. Over the last five years, the Oregon account has been just one of three programs to earn an average annual return above that of the index (+15.7% for Oregon vs. +14.5% for the S&P 500). Oregon also had the highest Sharpe ratio (a measure of risk-adjusted return) of all programs last year, and had the fourth highest Sharpe ratio over the prior three and five-year periods.
While raw investment performance is a factor in consideration for the annual Fred Dickson Memorial Award, it primarily seeks to honor programs that exhibit adherence to a well-developed and consistently applied investment process; a high level of program engagement; and strong risk-adjusted returns over the trailing one-, three-, and five-year periods.
“Even as we approach the election amid heightened uncertainty in the economy, the past year has brought strong market results and solid returns for many investors, including our Student Investment Program teams,” said Brent Williams, senior research analyst at Davidson & Co. “We believe this program highlights the importance of learning about investing and portfolio management, helping students understand how markets change—especially in years marked by volatility.”
The firm also noted UO’s successful pivoting to focus on “impact investing” through the public markets.
“Impact investing has never been more relevant than it is today,” said UO student Traven Joseph, portfolio manager for the D.A. Davidson portfolio. “Students here at the UO value the opportunity to participate in a program that operates with such a rigorous environmental, social, and corporate governance strategy, especially one that is achieving long-term, sustainable returns. I know we’re all extremely proud to have won the Fred Dickson Memorial Award this year.”
Cindy Burg, senior vice president and financial advisor with D.A. Davidson, who serves as advisor to the University of Oregon team, said she enjoys witnessing students as they bring their business skills to their investment decision-making under the direction of McKeon.
“It’s so exciting to see the Ducks earn this award this year after watching their hard work and focus,” Burg said. “They learn so many important skills through this program.”
Oregon joined the Davidson & Co. Student Investment Program in 1999. Since then, Ducks in the program used their skills to earn a cumulative profit-sharing contribution of $63,688, including $14,947 this past year.
During a typical year, the award would include an in-person event. Organizers are deciding whether to hold an online event or postpone until spring. The recognition also includes a $2,000 cash award to the student group.
—Lundquist College Communications