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Featured Alumni

May 2009

Jamia Jasper, MBA '97: Keen observation and experience spurs creation of the American Israeli Shared Values Fund

By Madalyn Averbach

Jamia Jasper, MBA '97
A couple of years ago, Jamia Jasper, MBA '97, noticed three things about companies in Israel: Many have stocks that trade in the U.S.; they are conservatively managed with low valuations, allowing for significant appreciation potential; and, most importantly, not one large U.S. investment firm had yet established an Israeli mutual fund. Right away, Jasper knew she had her finger on a unique market. Her own success in Israeli stock investments further convinced Jasper to "start a fund to satisfy the needs of others looking to 'buy Israeli', whether for investment purposes or for a show of solidarity." In 2007, the American Israeli Shared Values Fund was born.

Jasper draws on both her previous experience as a credit analyst and her knowledge of international investments to promote the fund, and she has been rewarded in her strong network of investors. "It is a niche mutual fund, which makes it stand out, and the performance is good" says Jasper. Her plans to grow the fund include targeting Jewish organizations' employee 401(K) and 403 (b) platforms.

Jasper started the fund not only to seek capital appreciation, but also to establish American support for Israel and its economy by creating more liquidity in the Israeli stock market. "I'm bringing more attention to the dynamic Israeli economy," says Jasper. She also demonstrates her commitment to Israel by personally donating a minimum of $5,000 per year to Israeli charities. Below, Jasper answers question pertaining to the current economy and how it has affected investments in both the U.S. and overseas.

Did you face any obstacles in establishing the fund and finding a network of investors?
Jasper: The biggest obstacle to establishing the fund was getting through the maze of legal work required to set up a mutual fund. Mutual fund firms are the second most highly regulated industry next to insurance companies. Unlike hedge funds, the SEC closely monitors the activities of mutual funds. As a result, they are highly transparent, which investors should appreciate given the recent wave of financial scandals.

As for finding a network of investors, I am continually working to promote the fund. It is a niche mutual fund, which makes it stand out, and the performance is good. However, I need to get a ticker symbol, but that requires $10 million in assets. The NASDAQ added the $10 million requirement after I started the fund. How do you get to $10 million in assets without a ticker symbol? It's an obstacle that hurts the small entrepreneur, but it forces you to be resourceful.

How has the global economy affected the daily operations of the fund?
Jasper: The daily operations of the Fund remain the same. However, I have had to renegotiate some service contracts to keep costs low. I also have to be mindful of any non-essential expense and constantly assess the cost/benefit of any expenditure.

The global recession and its impact on the securities markets have certainly made it more difficult to attract investors to an equity mutual fund.

What similarities and differences are there between the American and Israeli economies in their current state and outlook for the future?
Jasper: Both economies are relatively strong compared to the rest of the world. Through the first quarter of 2009, the S&P 500 is down about 11 percent, while the Israeli market (the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange 100) is up just over 18 percent. The major difference between the two economies is that Israel's economy was far less leveraged prior to the current recession as debt is far less prevalent there and most Israeli banks have tighter lending standards than their American and European counterparts. There was also far less use of derivative instruments in Israel. As a result, Israel's economy has held up better than most, even with their reliance on exports.

What is the most compelling aspect of your job? The most frustrating?
Jasper: The most compelling aspect is that I get to research and gain knowledge about so many interesting and innovative companies in varied industries. The most frustrating part is trying to get the Fund in front of the right people. It will take time and perseverance.