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LSU SMART Lab Offers Real-Time Trading Environment

LSU Alumnus John Tarleton first to make an ongoing SMART Lab commitment

The LSU SMART Lab functions as a real-world trading floor, complete with 44 workstations, a streaming ticker, two Bloomberg terminals, data feeds and modern trading analytic software.
Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

Stock prices are coming in at real-time; traders are glued to a streaming ticker, watching and waiting for the right time to buy or sell. A group walks over to a terminal with direct access to the latest news and trends from Bloomberg to research a “gut feeling,” and they enter the information into trading software for further analysis. A decision is then made on how to enhance a $1 million equity portfolio.

While this is a scene straight off of Wall Street, this is actually taking place daily in the LSU Securities Market Analysis Research and Trading, or SMART, Lab.

The SMART Lab, located in Patrick F. Taylor Hall, functions as a real-world trading floor, complete with 44 workstations, a streaming ticker, two Bloomberg terminals, data feeds and modern trading analytic software.

Through the SMART Lab, students manage a $1 million equity portfolio, called the Student Managed Investment Fund or the Tiger Fund, which was founded in 2005 by a generous grant from the LSU Foundation. Students also have the opportunity to earn certification in equities and fixed income securities through Bloomberg and can begin earning their Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

Recently, John Tarleton, director and chief compliance officer of LavaFlow Inc., has become the first donor to make an ongoing commitment to help sustain the SMART Lab by committing $500 monthly for two years. That amount totals $6,000 annually from the New York resident and LSU alumnus. 

“The SMART Lab is critical for finance students at LSU,” said Tarleton, who received his bachelor’s degree in finance from LSU in 1984. “With the lab they have the opportunity to manage a portfolio, see real-time market data and observe trading issues as they would in the real world. I have spent the vast majority of my career in the electronic trading field and understand the importance of a student having the experience and the ability to see what the traders in the real world see.”

In 2010, the SMART Lab received more than 13,200 visits from business students. According to Tish O’Connor, assistant director of the SMART Lab, about 65 percent of the visits were made by either finance undergraduate or graduate students, and the other 35 percent were made by mainly MBA, accounting and other business students.

“The SMART Lab is one of the E. J. Ourso College’s best resources for students to gain practical knowledge and experience, which will translate to successful careers in finance,” O’Connor said.

Finance majors, including senior Chris Pooler, rave about the SMART Lab’s benefits.

“The SMART Lab has been an invaluable tool in my preparation for a career in the financial services industry,” Pooler said. “With access to globally used professional programs and software packages, such as Bloomberg and Factset, I have developed and enhanced my abilities in analyzing securities and managing a portfolio. This strong foundation of skills will be key to landing a top job in the industry and having early success in my career.”

According to Tarleton, the SMART Lab is a benefit he certainly would have enjoyed during his collegiate career.

“When I was a student, we made our ‘trades’ in imaginary portfolios on index cards using the data published in the Wall Street Journal,” Tarleton said. “The world moves at a much faster pace now and the information moves in fractions of seconds, which means understanding and having a feel for the real world is invaluable. This is why I was motivated to donate to the SMART Lab.”

Department of Finance Chair Carlos Slawson calls monthly donors such as Tarleton “heartbeat givers,” in that they help “provide essential and immediate support to keep vital software and data, including Bloomberg and Factset available to students.

“The E. J. Ourso College of Business is seeking a $5 million endowment to more permanently sustain the SMART Lab,” Slawson said. “Right now, we need $6,500 per month in operating funds for the SMART Lab. Mr. Tarleton’s monthly gift is equivalent to the income of a $150,000 endowed professorship, which helps to put into perspective how much of an impact his gift will make.”

E. J. Ourso College Dean Eli Jones thanked Tarleton, stating that the college is tremendously grateful for “John’s commitment to providing critical operation funds for the SMART Lab.”

“John’s gift is the perfect example of how a monthly gift can have a huge impact on a program,” Jones said. “We need about 40 more individuals and businesses who can commit on average $500 per month for three to five years while we build an endowment.  We thank John for his leadership and hope that others will join us in sustaining this invaluable resource.”

To learn more about the SMART Lab, visit www.bus.lsu.edu/smart.

Those interested in a tour of the SMART Lab, or to make a donation, please contact Karen Deville, senior director of advancement in LSU’s E. J. Ourso College of Business, at advancement@lsu.edu or 225-578-6407, or visit http://www.bus.lsu.edu/advancement/ways.asp.

The Department of Finance at LSU’s E. J. Ourso College of Business offers high quality programs for undergraduate and graduate students interested in careers in corporate finance, asset management, real estate, insurance, banking, financial planning and business law. Aiming to create exciting educational opportunities for its students, the department employs tools such as the SMART Lab. Additionally, the Department of Finance encourages, supports and conducts research in real estate by housing the nationally renowned Real Estate Research Institute.

For more information, visit www.bus.lsu.edu/finance, call 225-578-6291, or e-mail finance@lsu.edu.