Section Image: Erin Milsten, Becca Smith and Anna Murrey at the Rogers Rotunda

Undergraduate Women Break New Leadership Ground for TCU Neeley’s Educational Investment Fund

Erin Milsten, Becca Smith and Anna Murrey join the team of six peer-chosen leaders and deliver gender parity for the management group of the Neeley School's student-run, multi-million dollar investment portfolio.

March 29, 2022

By Nicholas Ferrandino

Since its creation nearly half a century ago, the Educational Investment Fund (EIF) at the TCU Neeley School of Business continues to succeed in equipping students with the investment skills and savvy that will prove integral to their future success in the business world. This year, three undergraduate women are among six students selected from a class of 20 to lead the EIF: Chief Administrative Officer Anna Murrey (akin to a CEO role), Chief Economist Erin Milsten and Portfolio Manager Becca Smith bring gender parity to the leadership for the first time.

First established in 1973, the EIF is a course that gives both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to directly engage with the stock market and gain hands-on experience.

As leaders of the EIF, Murrey, Milsten and Smith all work to oversee the class’ day-to-day operations, including maintaining relations with EIF trustees, monitoring the status of the global economy, and disseminating updated market information that the EIF uses to make their investment plans.

“At any investment or banking job, you will be working long hours to create reports and models that will be presented to your boss and/or your boss’ boss,” Murrey said. “So, on top of the technical skills, building that confidence in how to present and take responsibility for my work will be of definite use to me moving forward.”

Seeing more women take on leadership roles in the EIF is encouraging to Larry Lockwood, the Dr. Stan Block Endowed Chair in Finance at TCU Neeley, as well as the faculty adviser for the EIF. He views this new milestone as a welcome way to inspire a wider variety of students to apply to the class.

“The EIF is not a country club,” Lockwood said. “We want a diverse group that gives us a better base for decisions and richer discussions in class.”

Lockwood and EIF’s three female student leaders stress the strategic significance of building a diverse student body for the class. They agree that an increased share of voices of women and other historically underrepresented groups generate more wide-ranging viewpoints which helps the group develop new investment opportunities that may not be considered, otherwise. It is a strength that many large firms today still lack.

Erin Milsten, Becca Smith and Ana Murrey

“Having a diverse group of people in the class allows for our discussions to have a larger variety of objectives that are brought to the table,” Smith said. 

Milsten added, “It is a unique way to…gain our footing in an extremely male-dominated industry.” 

In 2019, a Vault survey reported that women only accounted for 24 percent of Wall Street’s workforce. And despite studies and articles over the past decade proving the female perspective is a great financial benefit for businesses and banking firms, it remains an undervalued and underutilized commodity.

At TCU Neeley, the continued growth of the EIF under the guidance of Murrey, Milsten and Smith serves as a testament that women are playing a large and impactful role in the industry. Indeed, every decision and every investment these students lead has significant fiscal implications.

The EIF is a federally recognized entity with real money, real investments and real risks. The fund’s portfolio is currently worth more than $2 million and students are responsible for shepherding it. Every student in the class works as part of the cohesive unit to study market trends, track current and potential interests, and make smart investment decisions to cultivate and grow the EIF’s net worth.

“We have beaten our benchmarks for 15 of our past 20 years,” Lockwood said. “The EIF is real-world business. We have beneficiaries to answer to. We are a legal entity. And our students do a fantastic job.”

Murrey, Milsten and Smith hope their success at the EIF will inspire future students at TCU to pursue their passions and make a name for themselves on Wall Street.

“A lot of these cohort experiences, especially when starting early in your college career, can be intimidating,” Milsten said “We have the power to encourage younger students, especially younger women.”

At the end of every year, the EIF takes five percent of its portfolio’s total value and donates it to both TCU and the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, in honor of TCU EIF’s founder and co-founder of Fort Worth’s Alcon Labs, William C. Conner. It is a fund that seeks to serve as a continuing source of financial support for the communities who helped bring the program to life. To date, nearly $3.5 million has been distributed to the EIF’s beneficiaries.

Learn more about TCU’s EIF here.