On a Saturday this Spring, teenagers from around the world gathered for Knowledge@Wharton High School’s Investment Challenge sponsored by Aberdeen and held at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). It was a day to spotlight Financial Literacy.
Some students trekked from Virginia and California, and others from India. Some called in through Skype, and one team had a pre-recorded video digitally embedded into a presentation. These students made up part of the top 15 high school teams selected from more than 2,000 participants to be finalists.
The purpose of the challenge (which is free to sign up for) was to teach youth about financial literacy and is Aberdeen’s fourth year of sponsorship. Financial literacy is a subject that rarely makes it onto school curriculums. Only 17 states require a course in personal finance to be taught in schools.1
The states with the largest concentration of financial hubs, including New York, California and Illinois, are not part of that 17. As college tuition costs increase and investing becomes more complex, financial literacy can make a difference in helping youth understand money as they age. According to Gallup, 66% of U.S. adults don’t keep a budget.
Financial literacy is a subject that rarely makes it onto school curriculums.
Outreach to teachers and schools for the competition was done by Knowledge@Wharton High School, an initiative of The Wharton School at UPenn that fosters financial literacy, and other skills such as entrepreneurship and leadership, among high school students and educators.
While financial literacy itself may not transform all the students into expert portfolio managers, it can equip them with a stronger understanding of the global economy, markets and how money is managed.
These takeaways were reflected in the students’ final presentations. Despite the steep learning curve, the students cited “investing,” “collaborative decision making” and “practical knowledge” as examples of what they gained from the competition.
Over a three-month period, students “traded” a portfolio of stocks that they selected with $100,000 in virtual cash. They did this for a hypothetical investor named Jack Abraham, an actual graduate from Wharton. Each team’s goal was to create an investment philosophy and process that would best attract the attention and support of Abraham.
Each team must then articulate its ideas in an essay, which included examples of their research and what tools they used to find companies to invest in, among other requirements. The competition isn’t about total return. Instead, it’s focused on teams who can best articulate a logical investment philosophy in a clear and succinct way.
Once the papers make it to us, the essays are then narrowed down to 15 by Aberdeen judges who also attend the final presentations and select the winners. Each year, this task gets harder and harder for Aberdeen. This year was no exception.
The winning team, Western Trade (and also the return champions) from West Ranch High School in California, conducted actual field research by visiting a company to help make investment decisions. The team also grew this year, having added new members to diversify the team. It was a close race, but the team managed to secure top place once again.
Second place went to OMG Capital from Moanalua High School in Hawaii. The team demonstrated creativity in its articulation of the investment philosophy, process and even the markets, using humor to engage the audience. It wasn’t only the Aberdeen judges who were there for the presentations. The student teams also had to speak in front of the other finalist teams and their teacher advisors.
Third place went to The Wolves of D-Street from Amity International School, Sector 44 Noida from India. The team was well-prepared, articulate and created a financial board game resembling chutes and ladders. Honorable mentions went to Charlottesville High School Student Investment Group from Charlottesville High School of Virginia and The Erudite Wits from Amity International School, Pushp Viha of India.
The list of other finalists included: Stella Rosea Holdings (Dulwich College of Beijing and Phillips Academy of Andover, Ma.), Moorestown Marketology (Moorestown High School of New Jersey), On Our Way to Wall St. (West Windsor Plainsboro High School North of New Jersey), The Rainmakers (Amity International School- Saket of India ), Quants (John P. Stevens High School of New Jersey), Troy Colts (Troy High School of California), Guilderland Hedge Fund (Guilderland High School of New York), SWOT Team (Bodine High School of Pennsylvania), Wolverines of Wall Street (Westview High School California) and Fantastic Four (John L. Miller Great Neck North High School of New York). All teams received a certificate for making it to the final round.
More than numbers
We believe every team was truly exceptional, and the hard work each team put into the project was profound. Although the investment competition started in 2010 after recognizing the need to improve financial literacy among youth, it’s not only about investing concepts. It’s also about the importance of teamwork, communication, problem solving and decision making. These are critical skills that can translate into many different scenarios, environments and careers.
The competition was one of many ways we hope to inspire the next generation of students into understanding the financial world and fostering engagement and collaboration. The future looks bright, based on what we saw at the competition, and we couldn’t be more excited.
To learn more about Aberdeen’s financial literacy efforts, please visit: http://www.aberdeen-asset.us/aam.nsf/usaboutus/financialliteracy
1 Council for Economic Education, 2016.