Meet a Key Executive Behind the Babson College Fund’s Success

Jim Spencer, executive in residence at the student run Babson College Fund program.

Jim Spencer ’73 has advised hundreds of bright, highly motivated finance students since the Babson College Fund (BCF) began 25 years ago—and despite the competitive nature of the accredited course, Spencer has noticed one overriding student trait.

“There is a genuine sense that the students want each other to succeed,” Spencer said. The undergraduate and graduate students accepted to the BCF gain experience managing $5 million of the College’s endowment. They analyze data and pitch stocks to fellow students, faculty, and a board of executives in residence, including Spencer.

“The support is always there, but students have to be able to give constructive feedback, and they have to be able to take it,” Spencer said. “It’s a delicate balance.”

Spencer, former chief investment officer of Cambridge Trust Company, began volunteering at the BCF only a few years after it began. He reflected on his ongoing work as the Babson community prepares for the Babson College Fund’s 25th Anniversary Celebration on September 22.

REGISTER: Babson College Fund’s 25th Anniversary Celebration on September 22.

Patrick Gregory, director of the Babson College Fund and managing director of the Stephen D. Cutler Center for Investments and Finance, weighed in on Spencer’s lengthy influence.

“He exemplifies the qualities we look for in an executive in residence. For over 20 years, he has dutifully attended class each week, where he shares his knowledge, experience, and keen insights with our students,” Gregory said. “Simply put, no industry executive has made a bigger contribution to the Babson College Fund than Jim Spencer.”

Staying Sharp

The BCF was founded in 1998 by a group of Babson students and faculty, who were given a small portion of the College’s endowment and challenged to outperform the S&P 500. Spencer just happened to live nearby at that time, and he decided he wanted to help students by volunteering at Babson.

Jim Spencer, an executive in residence at Babson's College Fund.
Jim Spencer (second from left) hired six BCF students while chief investment officer at Cambridge Trust Company.

“I’ve always liked working with young people. It keeps my mind sharp,” Spencer said. “Young people are always on the forefront of new changes.”

During Spencer’s steady volunteerism, the BCF has grown from a small student club to a major investment program with $5 million in assets. BCF students gain hands-on experience, top finance agencies get well-trained staff, and the BCF-managed endowment has beat the S&P 500 over time.

Students from the program have competed in the annual CFA Institute Research Challenge, a global competition in which students gain real-world experience as they assume the role of research analysts, and they’ve won the CFA Society Boston’s local challenge five out of the last seven years.

“The quality of students has always been high since I started. It has continued to improve—especially among undergraduates. Each class builds upon the success and experience of previous classes,” Spencer said. “The accolades come as a result of the sophistication of students and their level of dedication, mentored by a strong faculty, staff, and diverse group of executives in residence” Spencer said.

Recipe for Success

Unlike other courses, BCF students must be interviewed and accepted by student managers and executives in residence for the privilege of taking part in BCF, and they have to commit to two semesters. Once in the class, they have to convince student managers and the executives in residence which stocks to buy. The class was originally made up largely of graduate students, but more and more undergraduates are interviewed and accepted each year.

“A lot of them know exactly what they want to do by the time they’re a third-year student,” Spencer said, comparing their commitment to his own career path. “Some of us didn’t know that until even a few years into work.”

The high caliber of Babson students in general, along with supportive student groups and the creation of the Cutler Center in 2000, are all factors in the BCF’s impressive success.

“Simply put, no industry executive has made a bigger contribution to the Babson College Fund than Jim Spencer.”

Patrick Gregory, director of the Babson College Fund

Spencer’s consistent commitment and his availability as a mentor and employer is another factor, said Farrah Narkiewicz, marketing and events manager for the Cutler Center.

“What makes him so unique is that he’s been doing this for over 20 years. He understands the value this hands-on experience has for our finance students and is very dedicated to helping the future leaders from Babson within the finance industry,” Narkiewicz said. “His experience also provides a unique perspective to students in that they can learn firsthand from someone in the industry.”

Spencer, who hired six former students while CIO at Cambridge Trust Company, said the program also benefits from faculty, staff, and the team of executives in residence who bring real-world experience to guide students. Meanwhile, alumni remain in touch through events such as the upcoming 25th Anniversary Celebration.

“It’s become its own self-sustaining network,” Spencer said. “Former students come back to see how the fund is doing and share their wisdom, and they’re able to connect with young talent while there.”

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