Money: Roland George Trading Room

November 05, 2012

The R.G.I.P. lab has a new look that blows people away with its professional high-finance atmosphere. The plant on the right is a money tree.

Money.

The bright high-tech glass room screams money.

Visual icons of high finance dominate the north hall of the Lynn Business Center’s third floor. Tan hardwood floors. Glass wall. Colorful 60” flat screen displays that stream real-time Wall Street and financial networks. A wide ticker of prices scrolls a wall, corner to corner.

Key a code near the money trees and whoosh, a glass panel slides open.

“Like Star Trek,” says Dr. K.C. Ma, director of the world-class Roland George Investment Program. Its $2.7 million plus portfolio won national championships in stocks and bonds last year.

Ma mentors student investors and guided the $40,000 first phase renovation of the classy lab in the School of Business Administration. Beyond mere appearance, 14 workstation computers run the latest finance programs of Bloomberg, Thomson Baseline, Telemet, Morningstar and others found in top finance firms around the world.

Cutting edge and gorgeous, says George alumnus Justin Hunter, BBA ‘10, an analyst at BNP Paribas in New York. “The aesthetic and look of the glass wall and clean lines is certainly something you’d find in a bank environment,” said Hunter, of Orlando. “It’s very feng shui.”

The makeover shed some of the old lab’s “classroom feel,” said alumnus Greg Rizzo, a financial analyst for the Darling Consulting Group. The new lab will help students feel more like business-people and soften real world transition, said Rizzo, BBA ’11, of Ipswich, Mass.

“A feel of stock exchange ambiance, where visitors can look in onto the trading floor,” was gained in the makeover said Dr. Jennifer Foo, Finance chair. The upgrades are a boost for students, but also for alumni pride, she said. (Alumni around the world can see lab action day and night on the Internet by checking the Trading Room Cam.)

Dr. K.C. Ma, far right, makes a point with shows Ryan Osborne, a senior Finance major from Englishtown, N.J. while other students work in the Roland George Investment Program lab, called the Trading Room. Real time displays behind them show minute-by-minute performance of the investments in the program’s portfolio. Ma is director of the program.

“The lab reflects the caliber and quality of the program’s students and professors,” said senior Mitchel Brenner, a Roland George lab assistant and program alum. “People are blown away when they see it.” The lab has always been a hot stop on Stetson University tours, but it’s even hotter now, he said. “Now we have trouble getting people to continue the tour because they want to stay and look.”

Program almuni have begun donating i-Pads with the latest software, said Ma, and a subtle, but powerful change is being made to the RGIP logo. The familiar bull-and-bear is being replaced with a prowling shark, symbolic of driven students who meticulously and voraciously research investment opportunities.

“Bull and bear icons are passé,” said Ma. Large, prestigious hedge funds and investment offices in New York have wood floors, glass walls, real-time digital displays and saltwater aquariums. “But they don’t put gold fish in aquariums. They have predators in there.”

As a finishing touch to the upgrades in the lab, Ma plans to install a similar aquarium with at least one kind of predator – a shark. It’s a strong symbol, but there’s a practical use.

“Plants and fish are proven to be calming elements in stressful environments like the trading room,” explains Brenner.

RGIP students, said Brenner, learn that the way to make money is to prey on less researched and less knowledgeable investors, he said. “A great thing about the stock market is that there is no discrimination. Nobody cares your age, sex, or race,” said Brenner. “The only thing the market recognizes is dumb money and smart money. The RGIP and its students are smart money.”

The trophy case proves the principle. The program has won 12 national championships in the last 11 years.  Changes in portfolio investments are displayed in real time in the Trading Room, a constant reminder to students.

by Ronald Williamson




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