ASUC senate asks campus consulting group to examine investment portfolios

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The ASUC Senate passed a bill Wednesday commissioning a campus consulting group to examine its investment portfolio, with the ultimate goal of improving the organization’s investment process.

The senate will allocate $3,000 to the ASUC account of the The Berkeley Group — a student organization that provides pro bono consulting services in the Bay Area — upon satisfactory completion of their work, according to the bill. The project aims to both improve returns on ASUC investments and develop a structure for overseeing financial progress in the future, even as senate leadership changes from year to year.

To meet these goals, consultants plan to analyze the historical returns and risk levels of various ASUC investments, according to The Berkeley Group’s statement of work. They will examine ASUC reserves to determine if any of those funds can be put toward investment, and develop a framework for evaluating investments in terms of both return rates and less tangible goals.

“Although everything is fine we could be doing it in a better, more efficient way,” said Student Action Senator Hannah Frankl, who worked on the bill as part of the senate’s finance committee and who is also a member of The Berkeley Group.

Another tenet of the consulting project involves conducting interviews with the ASUC financial management team and observing similar organizations to develop the best practices for transferring institutional knowledge about investment strategy.

Both Frankl and ASUC Executive Vice President Justin Kong noted the importance of developing these best practices, considering the senate’s high turnover rate.

“(This project is) an opportunity to change something,” Frankl said. “To really question the status quo.”

Other aspects include examining whether the ASUC has fully divested from companies it previously voted to divest from, especially in regard to fossil fuel companies, according to Kong.

And considering its goal of maximizing investments, this project could potentially allow more money to go into scholarship funds, Kong said. That conversation, though, would depend on what consultants recommend.

“Part of the profit that comes out of our investments every single year does go into being able to provide that resource for students,” Kong said. “If we do get more money we would open the conversation of expanding scholarships.”

According to the statement of work, consultants are scheduled to complete analyses of the ASUC’s investment portfolio and investment oversight process by March 16. The consultants then plan to create a new investment strategy and oversight process by March 30.

This plan is one of multiple consulting projects that the senate has recently implemented or discussed, according to Kong. Last year, after funds to sustain a total of four projects were secured for the EVP’s office, the senate hired consultants to create a new business model for Cal Lodge, which is owned by the ASUC.

Melissa Wen is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.