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Graduate Students’ Stock Up During Pandemic

With 25% Return, UML Team Runs Away with Student Managed Fund Challenge

A view of the stock ticker in the business school lobby
The graduate student team from the Manning School of Business won the annual Student Managed Fund challenge, while the undergraduate team finished fourth.

11/02/2020
By Ed Brennen

Manning School of Business graduate student Dennis Patel ’19 is among the millions of young people playing the markets on investment apps like Robinhood, Acorns and TD Ameritrade, which have seen a surge in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This whole (trading app) ecosystem has allowed retail investors without investment knowledge to enter the markets during the pandemic,” says Patel, who manages personal accounts with Robinhood, Charles Schwab and Fidelity. “That’s resulted in lots of people losing money due to decisions they made.”

Patel feels more confident in his investment knowledge after taking Finance Prof. Ravi Jain’s Student Managed Fund course last spring. During the course, students apply investment theory in the Student Managed Fund challenge, an annual investing competition between four UMass campuses sponsored by the UMass Foundation.

With an incredible one-year return of 24.64%, UMass Lowell’s graduate student team easily won this year’s competition. The River Hawks’ return was 17.12% ahead of the benchmark S&P 500 Index return of 7.52% for the fiscal year ending June 30.
 
This is the first year that graduate student teams could take part in the competition, which awards each of the top three finishers $5,000 to reinvest in their funds.

“I believe that a citizenry invested in the economic system will make more responsible decisions about it.” -Finance Prof. Ravi Jain
UMass Dartmouth’s undergraduate team was second with a 13.70% return, while UMass Boston’s graduate team was third at 13.40%. 

UMass Lowell’s undergraduate team, which has won the competition five times since it was launched in 2008, also beat the S&P benchmark with a fourth-place return of 10.25%.

While the stock market is always volatile and requires a faith in the system to invest, Jain says it can be more difficult for young investors to keep that faith during a crisis like the pandemic.  

“It has never been more important for young people to learn how to invest, and it has never been more challenging for them to do so,” says Jain, whose course examines stock market behavior and securities analysis, providing students a sound investment process that “launches them on their personal wealth creation journey.”

Inheriting the portfolio from the previous Student Managed Fund course, students research the strategies of notable investors such as Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger and Catherine Wood before making their recommendations of which stocks to add and which to sell.

“We discuss why we’re investing in those companies and what the future is going to be for those organizations,” says Patel, whose graduate team took over a portfolio that was started in 2019 by the first graduate course to participate.

Patel, a Chicago native who is completing his master of business administration degree with a finance concentration this semester, says that many of the students in the course were active investors on apps like Robinhood — which added a record 3 million new customers in the first four months of the year, as people suddenly found themselves stuck at home because of the pandemic.

Realizing that people would want to exercise at home, Patel says he bought stock in Peloton at $33 a share as the pandemic began. When the markets crashed in mid-March, Patel sold the stock at $18. The last time he checked, it had soared to $90.

“That was a big learning opportunity for myself,” Patel says. “When you’re investing long term, don’t panic. Just hold true to your investment, because there’s a reason why you invested in the company in the first place.”

Patel was joined on the graduate team by Gabriella Akenn-Musa, Andrew Bowen, Eliza Bulger, David Campbell, Patrick Cassidy, Camille Clark, Courtney Coleman, Anthony DeCarolis, Shailey Doherty, Sophie Exarhopulos, Daniel Falcone, John Francis, Cameron Hult, Tonny Jaime De Leon, Milan Jain, Danielle Jillson, Lorsangpheng Keomony, Dhriti Kurichh, Anthony Leccese, Christopher Marcello, Oluwafisayo Owoeye, John Polichetti, Christopher Schutz and Fred Tavarez and Vinay Thakkar.

Jain says the course provides important lessons for students. 
 
“I believe that a citizenry invested in the economic system will make more responsible decisions about it,” Jain says.