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UNCW Blue Economy Index Goes Live On Bloomberg

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Mar 29, 2024
The University of North Carolina Wilmington's Blue Economy Index is live on Bloomberg terminals after being published in February. (Photo courtesy of UNCW)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington Blue Economy Index is live on Bloomberg terminals as of last month, according to Richard Keary, an advisor on the project.

The UNCW team that built the index announced the news on LinkedIn Wednesday, after learning from its calculation agent INDXX that the index was posted in February under the ticker BLUEECO.

A group of four UNCW finance students and Assistant Professor of Finance Miran Hossain built the blue economy index to include publicly traded companies that sustainably derive revenue from the ocean. After months of building the index beginning in the fall semester, the group partnered with a financial database FactSet and INDXX to help certify the index and post it to market terminals like Bloomberg.

One purpose of the index is to give UNCW students a first-hand experience building an index that can eventually be invested in through an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF). Another purpose of the index is to tie Wilmington to the Blue Economy, to which UNCW has been devoting resources since the creation of the Alliance for the Blue Economy (All Blue) in 2020.

A third reason to create the index is that one did not already exist, said Keary, who became a part of the project through All Blue and has an established career in ETF consulting. If the university was going to invest in the blue economy, there should be a way to calculate the health of that market, Keary said.

INDXX calculates the value of the index every day, Keary said. The index has a baseline of 1,000 points and will fluctuate depending on the activity in the market.

“I believe the index is at 1,755 (points), which means it's up 75% from where it started,” Keary said. “That's a really good performance. So, we're thrilled that we have this type of performance in the index.”

The performance of the index is tracked by the four-student team at UNCW, Ryan Jacobs, Cole Lippert, Colin Waltsak and Sander Akeren. Its data spans from April 18 through the present and has shown a 68% buy-and-hold return, as of February 2024.

Its buy-and-hold return rate outperformed other indexes such as the MCSI World Index (48%) and FTSE All Cap Index (52%). The S&P 500 index’s buy-and-hold return rate remains higher at 83%.

Financial professionals and universities can now access the index on Bloomberg terminals, but no one will be able to invest in the index until UNCW can secure an asset manager, which hinges on the student’s research, Keary said.

“The students are doing a tremendous job right now in providing research,” he said. “They're providing weekly and monthly data on the various performance and statistics around the index… We’ll have our first fact sheet I think next week, and then I can take those documents and I can start sending them around to the various asset managers.”

Ryan Jacobs, a senior finance student at UNCW, helped build and monitor the index from the beginning. He said the experience helped him understand concepts in his other finance classes, and he can bring what he is learning elsewhere in his major to the index as well.

“We learned the importance of our oceans, especially in the world of finance,” Jacobs said. “The oceans, they capture $3 trillion in (Gross Domestic Product) per year. They deal with more money than the entire United Kingdom."

Building the Blue Economy Index helped Jacobs understand real-world concepts within finance. While reading textbooks in his previous classes taught him concepts to pull from, the index has given him the opportunity to apply that knowledge.  

The ecological benefits of the index also inspire Jacobs. If quantifying the value of the blue economy inspires investors to become stakeholders in sustainable companies, it could bring a new wave of environmental investing.

“Eventually, if it gets picked up by an ETF provider, maybe one day we can incentivize these companies,” Jacobs said. “And if they perform better if they treat our oceans better or the environment then maybe we can incentivize them, but that would be a long way down the road.”
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