Hernandez embraces challenges of leading Nittany Lion Fund

February 17, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In the month since Kevin Hernandez has been in charge of the Nittany Lion Fund in the Penn State Smeal College of Business, he’s learned some hard truths and spent more time than he expected keeping everything running smoothly.

Hernandez will tell you, probably with a smile on his face, that he’s having the time of his life guiding the multimillion-dollar, student-managed fund.

The junior finance major from Mine Hill, New Jersey, took a few minutes recently to answer some questions about the Nittany Lion Fund, his new role as president, and the performance demands faculty adviser and fund CEO J. Randall Woolridge puts on him and everyone else.

How has your transition to president been?
I originally started as the lead of energy. I knew I eventually wanted to take a leadership role because the Nittany Lion Fund has given so much to me. It helped me get an internship (at J.P. Morgan in New York) as a sophomore. Now I’m returning to that internship after my junior year. I thought it was my time to give back. I enjoy giving back. I thought the best way to do that was to take an executive board role for the fund. I did apply to be president and I was fortunate enough to be chosen for that.

How are the Nittany Lion Fund officers selected?
It is an interview process with the previous board. All applicants have to be screened and approved by Dr. Woolridge, who is our CEO and advisor.

How gratifying was it to hear your name called?
They actually called me over the phone. It was something I was very excited for. It was something I was hoping I was going to get. I enjoy the Nittany Lion Fund a lot. I’ve learned so much.

How have your anticipated duties met the realities of the position?
It is a lot more hours than I originally expected. I knew it was going to be a lot, but what I didn’t realize is it’s a 24-7 job. You’re always checking your emails. You’re always hearing from other organizations. You’re hearing from the PSIA (Penn State Investment Association) analysts who are going through our training program to get into the Nittany Lion Fund. And there’s constant communication between Dr. Woolridge, the 40 student fund managers that you’re managing in the Nittany Lion Fund, and the 300 PSIA students who are going through your training program. It’s a lot.

If being a fund manager was good experience, is this a notch higher?
I think it’s an opportunity to show the world what you can do at such a big school to make it smaller. That’s what the Nittany Lion Fund is. It’s a finance organization that really prepares students for Wall Street internships and full-time jobs. I think it really makes Penn State smaller and you’re around people who are really competitive, but they’re supportive of your future goals.

Dr. Woolridge can be demanding. Does your position earn you some leeway, or does it open you up to more scrutiny from him?
It definitely opens me up to more scrutiny. When you are serving as president, you are the liaison between Dr. Woolridge, the students, and the 80 investors, as well. You’re working together. If something goes wrong along one of the lines, whether a pitch isn’t up to par, or a stock is down, or a lot or your investors aren’t happy, it’s up to me to fix the problem and really hear the feedback from Dr. Woolridge. There’s a lot of scrutiny involved.

You’re talking about all of the extra work and scrutiny with a smile. Clearly you enjoy this.
I do. I think it’s because it’s something positive. We have the opportunity to do something different. We’re running the only student-run hedge fund in the country that manages real investor money. It’s a different opportunity. We started in 2004. It’s now 2016 and we now manage $7 million. We keep achieving our goals of growing. Our job placement with the Nittany Lion Fund is now 95 percent. With those numbers and seeing students achieve something that they really want and knowing that you’ve helped them, it really puts a smile on my face every day. I love to do it.

Do you feel like, in a way, you’ve started in the job market? You’re doing a real job, you’re just not getting paid for it.
Most definitely. You’re doing everything that a real job has, management, organization, overseeing people, leadership. When I have to oversee 40 fund managers, I feel like I’m in the real world. We are managing a real hedge fund. We’re registered. We do have 80 real investors who are contacting us on a week-to-week basis.

When you’re not doing something directly or indirectly related to the Nittany Lion Fund, what do you do for fun?
I am a DJ downtown at a couple establishments and back home in New Jersey. I have a small DJ business. We do weddings, corporate events, Sweet 16s. Downtown I DJ at Indigo, Inferno and Chrome. I’m also involved in a business fraternity, Phi Gamma Nu.

About the Nittany Lion Fund
The Nittany Lion Fund is a $7 million hedge fund run exclusively by undergraduate students. The first of its kind in the country, the Nittany Lion Fund provides students the chance to make real investment decisions regarding the fund's 65 equities while exploring the intricacies of the financial world. The Nittany Lion Fund's mission is two-fold: to outperform the market, providing a strong return for its investors, and to educate its students in order to help them obtain careers on Wall Street.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 24, 2016