In an environment replete with student investing and consulting groups, Zeeba Investment Group, a student organization of around 25 members, attempts to set itself apart by focusing on investing in emerging markets around the world.
Sina Cherazi (COL ’13) and Dave Greek (MSB ’13) founded Zeeba through the Compass Fellowship in 2010, driven by an interest in investing and a desire to create educational opportunities outside of the classroom.
They focused on investing in Qatar because of the country’s favorable economic policies towards outside investors and the founders’ shared interest in the Middle East. Soon after founding, the organization partnered with students at the School of Foreign Service in Qatar, employing three students from that campus to better understand the investing environment in that country.
When focusing on investing in one country proved too limiting, the group turned their focus to emerging markets around the globe. Zeeba began investing in Canadian oil companies, Chinese tech firms and alternative energy groups. The investment shift sparked a growth in the company’s reach, according to board member William Fitzgerald (MSB ’16).
“Since we have since transitioned from focusing specifically on Qatar to emerging markets, that opens a lot more doors for us. Because you know oil is very global,” Fitzgerald said. “We have in the past looked at Canadian oil companies that have a lot of resources down in Argentina.”
Zeeba now has holdings of around $25,000, funded by small contributions from group members and additional money coming from family, friends and former members.
“You are really working for it because you do have a little bit of risk and skin in the game,” Fitzgerald said.
Although Zeeba is not recognized as an official student organization by the university, the group claims that it has more autonomy than university organizations to take risks with its money and make independent decisions. Portfolio Manager Charles Boisvert (MSB ’16), who transferred to Zeeba from the Georgetown University Student Investment Fund after his freshman year, appreciates the flexibility.
“I was in another investment fund beforehand and I just really thought it was rigid, too structured. And for me that’s not something I wanted, so I thought this would give me a lot more flexibility, responsibility and independence,” Boisvert said.
Though Zeeba members are allowed to participate in multiple funds, most choose just one because of the substantial workload involved and the different atmosphere.
Zeeba has four “desks” that each focus on specific regions: Middle East/North Africa, Latin America, Commodities and Asia. New analysts are free to pursue their interests.
“We have created it so that you come in as an analyst pool, either your freshman or sophomore year, and we accept at all levels,” Fitzgerald said. “You can really do research in whatever. It allows for you to not get too focused too young.”
Zeeba, which trains all its admitted investors, attracts a wide range of applicants, not solely from the McDonough School of Business, bu
from students in different schools with an interest in global business.
“Since everyone is so diverse, they bring up a lot of different viewpoints and things that we wouldn’t think of at first,” Boisvert said.
Head of Operations John Snyder (MSB ’16) emphasized Zeeba’s egalitarian investment process, which he said included the opinions of a large number of the group’s members.
“Everyone has a lot of say on the investments we make. … You don’t have to go through a lot of red tape,” Snyder said. “There is also the ability for younger kids to make an impact and move up.”
Students increasingly gain experience for future employment not solely through internships but also student groups such as Zeeba. Chief of Marketing Dara al-Sulayman (COL ’15) said the experience has been invaluable for both the knowledge of the financial services world she has gained but also the broad network it has established.
“I’m a senior and looking for a job and I have a network of people from all over. Even if they are not going to get you a job, they help you, give you interview questions, put you in touch with people,” al-Sulayman said.
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