February

SHU Senior Presents Research at International Finance Conference in India

Matt Choiniere '11 with C S Mohapatra

Matt Choiniere '11, left, receives a certificate of achievement from the Finance Ministry's Director of Capital Markets C S Mohapatra during a financial conference in India.

News Story: February 1, 2011

Matthew Choiniere, ’11, may have been apprehensive about presenting an academic paper before a room full of financial scholars at a conference in India, but he knows the experience was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Choinieire, from Cranston, R.I., is a senior in the Sacred Heart University’s John F. Welch College of Business (WCOB) who will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Economics.

In January, he and Rupendra Paliwal, Ph.D., the interim dean of the WCOB and an associate professor of Finance, traveled to the Management Development Institute in Gurgaon, India, to present the paper “Tracking Errors of ETFs and Index Mutual Funds – A Comparison” at the International Conference on Financial Innovations and Change for Survival and Growth. The paper examined the investment performance of two popular and similar investment vehicles - index mutual funds and exchange traded funds, according to the introduction. Choiniere did the research and Paliwal wrote it.

Choiniere was the only American and the only undergraduate student who presented at the conference. He says of his presentation before a classroom filled with Ph.D. students and those who already hold the higher degree, “It was absolutely frightening.”

When he looks back on that day, he says the other speakers were eloquent and at ease and well versed in their fields with the ability to answer follow-up questions. “People commended me just for being the youngest person there and for having the guts to go up there and present it,” says Choiniere, who one day may pursue a Master in Business Administration. “I didn’t know what to expect. It was exciting but completely nerve-wracking at the same time.”

Choiniere and Paliwal

The paper evolved from a financial management class taught by Paliwal in Choiniere’s freshman year; that laid the groundwork for the relationship with his professor, who also is his academic adviser. Two years ago, he had a class on derivatives and risk management. From an internship in his last year in high school until last fall, he was engaged in high-leverage trading of triple beta ETFs, which sparked an interest in the derivative markets – the same as Paliwal’s focus in the class. Based on questions he asked in class and an assignment, in which he had to pick an option (which just so happened to be triple beta ETFs) and track it for a semester, Paliwal saw his interest and fostered it. Choiniere worked as a research assistant for Paliwal over a summer, gathering data for him on ETFs and index funds. “He said, ‘Let’s get together and put together a paper and try to get it published,’” Choiniere remembers. Choiniere says the paper has to be fine-tuned before it can be published.

Recognizing that Choiniere was one of the “brightest” students, Paliwal says he also saw his talent and the willingness to do the work, thus the involvement in researching the paper and the challenge of presenting it. “He handled it very well,” he says.

In addition, Choiniere’s experience in India is just the sort of activity that the WCOB and the University overall want students to pursue. In fall 2010, the University started to examine and promote undergraduate research, but Paliwal says the WCOB began looking at it two years ago as a way to keep students engaged and connected to faculty in their major. In addition, the WCOB, at that time under the leadership of Dean John Petillo (current interim president of the University,) recognized that our students need more global experience and exposure and started promoting study abroad opportunities for undergraduate students. “That is a core focus for the University and the WCOB in terms of student experience, and I saw the trip to India within this context. Matt’s involved in the research and I said, ‘Let’s take him to a conference which is outside of the U.S.’”

“We easily could have gone to a conference here. But to give him that global exposure in a place where he has never been to and, more importantly, to a place that is growing significantly, I thought this would be a great outlet for him.”

As for his assessment of Choiniere’s future, Paliwal says, “He will do well in his career, and he will grow fast.”

While in India, Choiniere toured the country with Paliwal and his family. They traveled around Delhi, saw the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort and attended a light and sound show at Red Fort in Delhi. He loves Indian food, so he was quite content to try everything.

Choiniere gained an appreciation for home as well as empathy for the struggles in other countries. He is reminded of the comments people say when they return from other, less prosperous parts of the world - they appreciate what they have back home. Choiniere says he used to dismiss them. “But when I came back it was a definite culture shock because you see so much poverty. You can see poverty in New York or L.A. but nothing compares to the poverty there.”

Which brings him to a particular point he wants to make about his experience at the conference - “Ninety percent of the presenters discussed opportunities for sustainable growth within India,” he says. “And a lot of the presentations not only tackled the existing India market, but a lot were on microfinance and how to get funding to the small farmers. Right now, they are struggling with small business owners and farmers abusing loans that they get from the microfinance sector.”

They are not using the money as it was intended. The problem, he says, is the lack of regulation of microfinance sector. “It was definitely eye-opening coming from the States where everything is regulated. My whole life, that’s how it has been, that’s how I grew up. Everything has been by the book, and they don’t have a book yet. They do, but no one follows it.”

He added, “It was very interesting to be in an environment where you have these people in the academic world that are trying to present these ideas on how to fix all these financial innovations that have come into play.”

Choiniere first chose architecture as his career because he always liked to draw, then changed his focus to pharmacy. He was interested in attending Northeastern, but when he was given the curriculum sheet for a major in pharmacology, he says, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I hate science.”

He changed his direction again. In his last year of high school, he did an internship at a proprietary estate planning firm. “I got hooked,” he says. “Obviously, I am a fan of money and high salaries so it really piqued by interest. I was always good at math, but realistically I didn’t understand a lot of the financial stuff until I started working at the proprietary estate planning firm.”

Working at the firm, he says, helped him to excel once he came to SHU and started taking classes. After that, he had an internship at Merrill Lynch. “That was in the advising end of the business. I quickly realized that advising isn’t exactly where I wanted to be. So I started feeling around the different sectors of the finance industry - and investment banking is my goal,” says Choiniere, who characterizes himself as “very analytical.”

With his fingers crossed, he soon will be headed to Chicago for a second interview at a proprietary trading firm. If he gets the job, he would be working on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

His ultimate goal, he says, after he spends some time in an executive position and when he is financially stable, is to open up his own venture capital firm. “I am very entrepreneurial in my own sense and I am hoping one day I think of that thing that sets me free from a 9-5 job.” And give him time for his favorite pastime – golf.

When he thinks about his four years at SHU, he is glad he decided to do his undergraduate work here. He was accepted into many colleges and universities, but narrowed his list down to SHU and another tri-state area school. He still wasn’t certain in his first semester, even though he was doing well, and considered transferring. “But I just really saw myself accomplishing a lot here if I stuck with what I was doing. I wouldn’t have changed anything.”

While at SHU, he is a John F. Welch College of Business Scholar, in the Thomas More Honors Program, a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honors Society, on the Dean’s List, executive vice president of finance for the Student Government, was captain and co-founder of the Club Golf Team and was president of the Student Government for one semester. “I have made an outstanding group of friends and contacts that I will cherish for a lifetime.”

The Welch College of Business, under the umbrella of the Welch Experience Program, will offer fifty research assistantships (of $500 each) to sophomores and juniors this summer. Dr. Paliwal hopes that this will prove to be a success and pave the way for more student and faculty-joint research work.