Detroit Mercy business students shine in global investment competition

Detroit Mercy business students shine in global investment competition
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We may very well see four University of Detroit Mercy students handling our portfolios in a few years, and that could be a very good thing.

The business students placed in the top 25 in the world in the ETF Global Portfolio Challenge, a web-based simulated investment challenge. Adam Ross finished in 10th place, Paige Fairchild in 13th place, Spiro Pliakos in 15th place and Holly Hedemark in 21st. On average, the four students achieved a 12.46 percent rate of return.

Not bad.

Here’s how the contest works.

From left to right: Spiro Pliakos, Holly Hedemark, Paige Fairchild and Adam Ross did the University of Detroit Mercy proud in the ETF Global Portfolio Challenge.

Each semester, ETF Global, which offers investors research and risk analysis that focuses on exchange traded funds (ETFs), sponsors an investment competition for college students. Contestants begin the semester with a virtual balance of $100,000 and are tasked with constructing the best performing portfolio of exchange-traded funds.

“No other university had as many students among the top 25, and only four other universities had multiple winners at two students each,” says Joseph Eisenhauer, dean of the College of Business Administration. “In this sense, our university outperformed all other participating institutions from around the world.”

Participating in the Global Portfolio Challenge got the Detroit Mercy students’ competitive juices flowing.

“I’m a pretty competitive guy, so any competition I am in, it always gets my best effort,” says Pliakos, a member of the men’s soccer team and an Academic All-American. “Also, the stock market is something that has always been of interest to me. When you combine my competitiveness with my interest in the stock market, it came out to be a really fun experience.”

Adam Ross was glad competing with students from around the world tested his mettle.

“Being able to compete against people from around the world was the most enjoyable aspect of the challenge for me,” Ross says. “I’m a competitive person, so competing and holding my own against students from some of the top colleges around the world is what really made this experience so valuable and enjoyable.”

From left to right: Adam Ross, Holly Hedemark, Paige Fairchild and Spiro Pliakos  in Detroit Mercy’s Financial Markets Lab.

He credits Detroit Mercy and Omid Sabbaghi, associate professor of finance and director of graduate business programs, with his success in the challenge.

“I have to give Dr. Sabbaghi a lot of credit when it comes to what I learned that helped me excel in this challenge,” Ross says. “Over the course of the semester, he not only helped me identify the style of investing that worked best for me, but also gave valuable insight into how the market operates and what to look for when deciding which stocks/ETFs to invest in.”

Detroit Mercy says its state-of-the-art Financial Markets Lab provided the students with the right environment to compete on a global level.

“I think that the software and technology in the Financial Markets Lab contributed significantly,” Sabbaghi says. “I also think that discussing ETFs in class and allocating in-class time for the students to execute their trades, contributed as well. The Financial Markets Lab allows for vital integration of technological and investment education.”

The students’ success led to the launch of the College of Business Administration’s Majestic (Mercy and Jesuit Student Investment Capital) Fund.

Using donations from benefactors, Detroit Mercy Finance students will have the opportunity to purchase actual financial assets (stocks, bonds, currencies, etc.) with real money. Each successive semester, students will manage the portfolio.

Major donors to the Majestic Fund will serve on an Investment Advisory Council that meets quarterly with student investors to hear about their research and results and provide them with feedback.

“The Majestic Fund will give our finance students an exciting, hands-on learning experience as well as a new opportunity to interact with professionals from the business community,” Eisenhauer says.

In addition, the students will “develop their analytical and oral presentation skills, and will engage with practitioners from the business community,” Sabbaghi says.

The initial benefactors of the fund include Joe Berkowski, Ina Fernandez of Fern Capital, John Donnelly and Jim Penman of Donnelly Penman & Partners, among others.

For more information on Detroit Mercy’s College of Business Administration, please click here.

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