Walsh College

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014 - Walsh College finance students gain competitive edge with help from Michigan business owner: LJPR CEO personally funds student-run Michigan Alpha Project (MAP)

An unexpected emerging market is getting noticed in North America, one that boasts a capitalization larger than either Indonesia or Thailand and larger than Ireland and Israel combined. With a current market cap of $388 billion, that emerging market is Michigan.

According to Bloomberg, from Nov. 2012 to Nov. 2013, Michigan employment rose at double the rate of the U.S. employment growth and Michigan companies representing many diverse industries that are now competing across the globe have experienced returns of 25.2 percent annualized versus 20.93 percent on the S&P 500 since early 2009.

This noteworthy trend, with its breadth of opportunity, has inspired one Michigan business owner to take unprecedented action.

Beginning this year, in collaboration with Walsh College, Leon LaBrecque, JD, CPA, CFP®, CFA, managing partner and founder of LJPR, LLC, is personally funding a $100,000 student-run investment portfolio that will consist exclusively of companies headquartered in Michigan.

Aptly named the Michigan Alpha Project (MAP), this new program provides a forum for Walsh finance students to gain real-world investment and business experience that they otherwise would never have.  It also provides an opportunity to take advantage of and support his growing home-state market.

The outcome of the MAP investments – which are focused on Michigan equities – will determine whether or not regional bias has a positive or negative affect on portfolio alpha. Alpha is a measure of performance on a risk-adjusted basis, and is defined as the excess return of the fund relative to the return of the benchmark index.

Here’s how it works.  Two Walsh student teams, each comprised of a dedicated portfolio manager and analysts, vie for the opportunity to serve as LaBrecque’s financial advisor, with responsibility for managing his $100,000 portfolio. The selection of the winning team is based upon the team’s response to a request for proposal, as is standard in the industry, and judged according to the quality of research, validity of the proposed strategy, and other factors. 

If that isn’t real-world enough, students will use Walsh College’s finance lab to analyze markets and make investment choices. Established in 2013, this 1,400 square-foot, glass encased lab features 24 work stations, 12 Bloomberg terminals, lab projectors, white board, and an interactive “market wall” with live feeds for market indexes, global currency movements, current commodity prices, bond prices and NASDAQ, NYSE and Watchlist feeds.

“Students conduct research, brainstorm a strategic approach, present a portfolio thesis to an experienced wealth manager and then manage his money using all of the most current market technologies available with results that actually matter,” says LaBrecque. “What better student experience can you have?”

LaBrecque has another motive for establishing the MAP, however.

“My love of Michigan is the reason I am working to support the education and retention of its best and brightest minds,” he confides. “I don’t want our young talent leaving home for Chicago or New York. I want them here, where they can be great neighbors and make our state better for generations to come.  I want to hire the best and brightest and I want the thousands of great companies in Michigan to have access to the best and brightest.”

According to John Moore, PhD, CPA, Walsh’s associate professor of finance, the MAP benefits many important audiences for Walsh College.  

“This is a win for students, a win for employers and a win for Michigan,” Moore says. “The MAP exposes our students to all aspects of the investment management business, including client interaction outside of the classroom. Student graduates will gain business experience that better prepares them for employment at Michigan’s leading companies.”

For more information about the MAP, visit www.michiganalphaproject.org.

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About Leon LaBrecque

Leon LaBrecque is a Walsh faculty alumnus, having served as a professor and department chair of finance and economics. He helped to establish the college’s Master of Science in Finance program, one of the first of its kind in United States. LaBrecque is the managing partner and founder of LJPR and a practicing attorney, CPA, CFP® and CFA, specializing in investment management, retirement plans, estate planning, and tax planning for over 34 years. LaBrecque’s career includes work at Arthur Andersen and Plante Moran.

About LJPR, LLC

Founded in 1989, LJPR, LLC, is a fee-only financial advisor and wealth management firm with $626 million in assets under management (as of 12/31/2013), specializing in financial planning, retirement planning, investment management, estate planning and tax planning. Located in Troy, Michigan, LJPR has been providing financial planning advice in the Detroit Metro area for 25 years.

About Walsh College

Founded in 1922, Walsh College is a private, not for profit institution offering upper-division undergraduate and graduate business and technology degrees and certificate programs. One of Southeast Michigan’s largest business schools, Walsh has locations in Troy, Novi, Clinton Township and Port Huron, as well as online offerings. Walsh’s business services division offers the Walsh Institute, which provides solutions for businesses through training, continuing education and consulting. Walsh is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (www.ncahlc.org; phone: 312-263-0456) and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE, www.iacbe.org). The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP, www.acbsp.org) accredits specific degree programs.