From student investor to startup success | Waterloo News

As an alum of the first Student Investment Fund (SIF) cohort, a student-led initiative at the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) that gives students real-world investing experience, Andy Wang (BCFM ’13) is familiar with the benefits of experiential education that extends beyond classroom walls. On his journey to a successful career in mainstream finance, Wang has prioritized his commitment to giving back to Waterloo, providing ongoing mentorship to successive cohorts of SIF teams since graduating nearly a decade ago.

Hands-on programs like the SAF’s SIF and Student Venture Fund (SVF) were conceived as platforms for students to learn about finance by actively participating in investment decisions. Similar to the SIF, the SVF is a student-led initiative that provides students with experience in venture capital investing with early-stage startups.

“I really wanted to break into capital markets, but there weren’t many opportunities to do that in ways that weren’t purely theoretical,” Wang recalls. “The student-run investment fund was one of the few places that invested in publicly traded stocks using real money.” The initiative provides students with practical experience in equity valuation, portfolio management, and research due diligence with guidance from industry and academic mentors.

After graduating from the Computing and Financial Management program, Wang entered the workforce. With years of experience in capital markets and leading the finance functions at startups, Wang then developed the idea for Finta, an accounting platform for startups that provides real-time insights and handles their bookkeeping and taxes.

Recognizing the significance of his Waterloo connections, Wang reached out to Dr. Ranjini Jha, an SAF professor and mentor from his SIF days, who introduced the venture to the SVF. Mentored by professors Mark Arnason, Dr. Neil Brisley, Frank Hayes and Dr. Ranjini Jha, the SVF Student Deal Team completed thorough due diligence on Finta, finding that they related well to the accounting software platform as well as to Wang himself.

Impressed by Finta, the SVF pitched the startup to their investment committee, and nearly a decade after graduation, Wang received funding. “It’s pretty profound to come full circle almost exactly 10 years since I was in the fund. It reminds me of where I started and how much I have grown because of the people at Waterloo that helped me,” Wang says. “I am so glad for the opportunity to give back and continue to be involved.”

Like the many SAF faculty members and industry experts who mentor students on these funding teams, Wang nurtures his passion for finance and investment by sharing his knowledge to inspire others. “Professor Jha was instrumental in my involvement with the fund, and she helped me so much during my time at Waterloo. It’s because of my own great experience in SIF that I am passionate about giving back to SAF and the students at Waterloo.” Thanks to this dedicated network of mentors, SAF students continue to receive valuable hands-on experience to help prepare them for a successful career in accounting and finance.

What began as a small initiative led by SAF professors Jha and Andrew Ecclestone in 2012, the SIF has evolved into a respected student group with an established reputation in the accounting and finance community. The success of SIF led to the launch of SVF in 2017 and that has helped build SAF’s reputation in the early-stage investing space.

The inspiring full-circle relationship between SAF and devoted faculty mentors and alumni like Wang solidifies that the education and experiential opportunities available at Waterloo can help lead students to a pathway of extraordinary achievements and meaningful impacts on the financial world.