As an academic institution, Sarah Lawrence is no stranger to the concept of students taking responsibility for their own education. Such is the case with Gryphon Capital Management, SLC’s student-run investment firm.
Founded as a student club in 2014, it originally consisted of three students who were dissatisfied with the lack of classes and resources available to students interested in learning about finance. As is the case with many blossomings clubs on campus, initial growth was slow. Over the course of the past three years, however, interest in the group has steadily risen. The group is now a legally recognized partnership with fourteen members.
“Our main purpose is to help make the campus as a whole more financially literate,” said Alexander Wah, ‘19, president of Gryphon Capital, the umbrella group that includes Gryphon Capital Management. Part of that financial literacy is gained through the practice of stock market investment.
“Gryphon Capital Management's investment strategy is simple,” he said. “Together, we find companies that could be compared to the ‘Sarah Lawrence's’ of the stock market. Not the most well-known, not the biggest, but the ones that hold the most potential and intrinsic value. Through this approach, we have managed to double the market's return for the period in which we have been investing.”
Using profits generated from these investments, the group’s latest endeavor was pooling $1,000 to create an SLC scholarship, awarded to a student based on an anonymously submitted essay judged by a neutral body. Although the group initially planned to award only one scholarships, the group’s returns improved significantly while the essays were being judged. As a result, Gryphon Capital Management was able to award two $1,000 scholarships this week.
“As a group, we have truly flourished under Alexander’s leadership,” said Samuel O’Brient,‘18. O’Brient is the group’s most senior member, having been a part of Gryphon Capital since its early days in 2014. “[Wah] has brought a sense of structure that our group needed.”
In addition to Gryphon Capital Management, the group has two other branches: Gryphon Capital Counseling and the SLC Economic Review, which O’Brient is the editor-in-chief. He also serves as Director of Recruitment for the whole group. The Review is the college’s only student-run financially focused publication. The other two branches are focused mostly on the educational aspect of the club.
“Gryphon Capital Management is all about teaching students how to invest, look at the market, and manage their money. Gryphon Capital Counseling, however, aims more to teach students how to learn the basics of accounting— like how to open a savings account and how to choose a good loan,” said Wah. As of now, lesson plans for Counseling has been made, but the classes are expect to launch in the spring and be headed by Cameron Carpenter, ‘19, who currently serves as Vice President of the umbrella group.
“My role in transforming this organization from a small gathering of students discussing economic and financial matters into a full-fledged investment firm managing real capital has taught me that the key to success in any venture is to team up with those whose skill sets complement my own,” said Carpenter. “Last year, when [Wah] and I were in the process of turning GCM into an actual private investment group, we were able to succeed only because of our successful division of labor. [Wah] utilized his charisma and intimate knowledge of financial systems to create opportunities for GCM, while I utilized my knowledge of law and business operations to ensure that GCM had the structural and legal capacity to make the most of those opportunities.”
Garrett Hsuan, ‘19, spent last summer independently day trading after joining Gryphon Capital at the start of the Spring 2017 semester. He now serves as the Director of Outreach for the group. “GCM was instrumental to my interest in finance and trading” he said. “Learning with peers equally as passionate has only excited my motivation to learn and tackle new concepts and challenges. Being able to apply what I learned this summer towards day trading was a satisfying accomplishment and testimony to the success of GCM as a responsible and educational family. One I know I can always count on for support and inspiration.”
Gryphon Capital has also worked to foster relationships with distinguished alumni and other members of the Sarah Lawrence community. Last semester, the group spent a meeting with John Hill, chairman of the Sarah Lawrence College board of trustees and Vice Chairman of First Reserve Corporation. A month later, they met with Jeffery B. Engel, a member of the Class of 1984 who now serves as Director at GMP Securities, a leading independent investment dealer. Both men shared their experiences with the group and offered helpful insight.
In addition to their stock portfolio, the group has also recently launched a cryptocurrency fund. It is managed by Alexander Jermann, ‘20, and has yielded some impressive results so far. “Their Bitcoin research was on par with professionals,” saidEngel. “I showed it around my trading desk and everyone was impressed. GCM was completely right.”
Gillian Madans ‘19