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UCD Students Launch Ireland’s First Student-Run Sustainable Investment Fund

Photo credit: Artie Moffa

Friday, 3 March 2023- “Sustainable investing is fast becoming the new normal, with ESG assets forecast to surpass $50 trillion by 2025,” said Alan Gleeson, a Full-Time MBA student and Aspire scholar at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. “Demand for sustainable investments is being driven, in part, by millennials who prefer to invest in alignment with personal values.”

“The young people of Ireland are motivated to make a difference in the fight against climate change and this initiative will provide students with the tools necessary to make real change, both now, and well into the future.”

Alan was previously involved in the design and implementation plan for a new sustainability strategy at Colas Ireland, a leader in innovative, sustainable mobility solutions, to ensure the organization meets its 2030 carbon requirements and extended his experience into his academic studies. He first heard about the emergence of the new initiative when he studied the Behavioral Science of Management at Yale University in 2022 as part of an MBA exchange with the Global Network for Advanced Management (GMAN).

With fellow MBA students, he was considering launching an investing club back in Dublin when he met fellow student Conor Maguire. Conor, who is studying for an MSc in Finance and is the CEO of the UCD Smurfit Finance Group, quickly realised the potential for collaboration.

“The aim of the UCD Smurfit Finance Group is to provide a platform for graduate students to learn and apply the fundamentals of investing and equity analysis, facilitate educational workshops, and promote professional development within the finance industry with a focus on sustainability,” continued Conor, a native of Emyvale, Co. Monaghan.

The new student-run sustainable investment fund will engage students in real-world equity analysis, applying financial theory and portfolio management fundamentals to researching, pitching, and managing a simulated equity portfolio. They will also focus on companies committed to promoting environmental and social characteristics, have good governance practices, and are constituents of the S&P 500 ESG Leaders Index.

“The focus on sustainable investing is gaining significant momentum through government policy in recent years, with the UN SDG goals and the Paris Agreement forcing companies to consider sustainability in investments.” continued Conor who captained the Smurfit CFA team who recently won the CFA Ireland Research Challenge.

“An understanding of the evolving regulatory environment and company strategies to tackle these issues is extremely important to employers, and we want to inspire graduates to begin thinking critically around these issues here at UCD Smurfit, establishing the school as a hub for impactful, cutting-edge research.”

In its first year, the initiative will run a simulation fund to ensure that operations are running smoothly before launching a live fund in 2024. The team will be looking for faculty and alumni mentors who can lend their industry expertise for the emerging club. In addition, the fund will be looking for financial support from alumni or corporate partners when the fund goes live in order to achieve scale and greater impact. Conor and Alan will both remain involved as advisors for the foreseeable future to ensure the success of the fund.

“Through investing in sustainable companies, students will have the opportunity to contribute towards positive social and environmental impact,” said Alan, who is originally from Newcastle, Co. Wicklow and UCD Quinn School alumnus. “Students will gain a sense of purpose and fulfillment knowing that the group’s investments will be making a difference.”

“Profits will be reinvested into the fund, while a pre-agreed portion of the annual return will be used to support other sustainability initiatives, both at the school (road towards Green campus), and the local community. As sustainability becomes an increasingly important focus in the business world, having experience in a sustainable investment fund can help students stand out in the job market and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.”

The initiative supports the UCD College of Business Strategy to raise awareness and improve understanding of sustainable investment principles and practices, inspiring future leaders to make an impact during their careers.

The initiative is supported by Professor Gerardine Doyle, Director of UCD Smurfit School and Associate Dean of UCD College of Business, Dr Linda Dowling Hetherington who leads the School’s popular Global Leadership Programme (GLP) and Donna Dowling, Programme Manager for the MSc in Finance.