A group of business students at Tennessee Tech are working the financial markets, investing real money, earning returns for the College of Business’ scholarship fund and learning a lot in the process.
The university’s TVA Challenge team ranked in the top three performers for the 2017 TVA Investments Challenge Competition, earning the opportunity to present their portfolio in front of more than 400 people, including TVA leadership, at the annual TVA conference in April.
“With the TVA Investments Challenge, it is as close to real world portfolio management as you can get without being employed by a wealth management firm,” said senior finance major Maverick Melton. “It is really an exceptional class and an exceptional opportunity that gives you the hands-on experience that it is difficult to get anywhere else.”
In the Investments Challenge program, TVA partners with approximately 25 universities to allow students hands-on portfolio management experience managing actual stock portfolios for TVA. Each school uses $500,000 of TVA money for make investments on behalf of their own team portfolio.
“TVA really uses the portfolio as a training opportunity for the students,” said Brittany Cole, assistant professor of finance, at Tech. “They provide students a specific set of parameters, but the investment choices are ultimately up to the students.”
In the 2017 challenge, the Tech team’s portfolio earned nearly a 30 percent return, all based on the decisions made by the students.
“This was a chance to work with real numbers,” said accounting major Jordan Louth. “In some classes, you might work with made up numbers or made up companies but this helps put everything you learn into perspective.”
Although TVA technically owns the stocks and the funds associated with them, a portion of the returns each year are given back to the school. For the 2017 challenge, Tech’s College of Business received nearly $9,000 from the students’ success.
Each student manages a different sector of the market, and that student is responsible for all the buy and sell pitches during the semester.Pitches are presented to and discussed with the group, so all decisions are made collaboratively.
“This class is different from other classes because it gives you real life experience,” said finance major Trevor Putzig. “When you go out in the workforce, you have talk to people at work, make important decisions, justify your decisions.This class helps train us to be successful in a working environment after graduation.”
Students in the class that are selected through a competitive application process.
“I heard about this class my first year here (at Tech) and was really excited to be a part of it, to have the opportunity to actually pick stocks and buy them in an academic and professional environment,” said finance major Lee Hall.
Tech has a reputation of excellence in the TVA Investments Challenge, having placed among top universities in the challenge multiple times. That reputation and the opportunity to learn about financial management in a new way, keeps the students interested.
“I was really excited to learn more about investing after taking the introductory investments course.There is no other class where you can do the things that we do in the TVA Challenge,” said finance major Christy Le.
When they take their portfolio outside of the College of Business’ trading room and to the full TVA conference next month, they will have the opportunity to impress TVA leadership in a way that has led to past TVA Investment Challengers being offered careers at TVA.
“I think the students thrive under the current structure of the class, and they are learning to think the way real money managers think,” Cole said. “They are learning how to perform equities research, navigate Bloomberg technology, and articulate their ideas and thoughts through presenting.”Team members who helped build the portfolio submitted in the 2017 challenge include TN Tech Fall 2017 finance graduates Haley Barr, Zac Bassham, Rachel Batchelor, Dakota Cox, and Jagger Ledbetter.Accounting major Sebastian Braswell and finance majors Christy Le, Maverick Melton, Trevor Putzig, and Chase Womble continued their involvement with the TVA Challenge from Fall 2017 to Spring 2018.Newcomers to the challenge this spring include finance majors Lee Hall and Nathan Olmstead, and accounting major Jordan Louth.
TVA Investments Challenge Team members who helped build the portfolio submitted in the 2017 challenge include Maverick Melton, Jordan Louth, Trevor Putzig, Chase Womble, Nathan Olmstead, Lee Hall and Christy Le.