LIVINGSTON, NJ — From a field of more than 500 teams worldwide competing in this year’s "Knowledge @ Wharton High School Investment Competition"—a global investment simulation that fosters the development of critical business skills such as teamwork, communication, industry analysis and risk mitigation—a group of Livingston High School (LHS) students has been selected as one of the top 12 finalists.
Team members Aditya Desai, Chengnan Li, Jesse Li, Sidhant Srivastava and Edward Wang, all juniors at LHS, will present their financial strategy at the Wharton School in San Francisco next month for a chance to become global finalists.
Desai, the team leader, came across the competition on the “Wharton Global Youth” social media account, which offers many business-oriented opportunities to high school students. Immediately intrigued, Desai gathered what he described as “a team of like-minded peers who were passionate about business and possessed technical skills that could manifest in tangible improvements for their investment strategy.”
“The Knowledge @ Wharton High School program places an exemplary focus on each team’s strategy, rather than their quantifiable outcome—meaning that, unlike stock market challenges where the competitor with the highest yield wins, the teams that present the most sophisticated wealth management strategies have the best chance to win,” said Desai.
He explained that each participating team was provided with a profile for a prospective client and was charged with developing a thorough investment strategy that the client could ultimately adopt. Over the course of 10 weeks, each team was required to manage a portfolio of $100,000 in virtual cash using Wharton’s Online Trading and Investment Simulation (OTIS) in order to provide a track record for the success of a potential strategy.
To help determine the finalists, teams were required to submit midterm and final investment reports detailing their conceived investment options, metrics and ideologies.
The prospective client for this year’s competition is Reshma Sohoni, a real-life Wharton graduate who co-founded a European equity-based seed fund called "Seedcamp."
“Her company makes more than 35 investments annually and currently holds a stake in 30 of the fastest-growing startups across the world,” said Desai. “Of course, the profile also detailed some of Reshma’s personal attributes: her love for education, philanthropy and her husband’s new safari business, Powerdown.co.”
With these conditions in mind, the Livingston team’s firm, “SocTech Investments,” sought to create a unique investment strategy for Sohoni that capitalized on all fiscal opportunities.
By contacting Sohoni and her husband directly via Email, the team was able to uncover that the couple "had an innate passion for safaris, and particularly an Oasis,” or a small patch of fertile land in an otherwise arid region, Desai explained.
“Not only has the term ‘Oasis’ evolved into our baseline investment approach, but rather an ideal to emulate,” said Desai. “SocTech strives to be the OASIS in asset management—a hub of technology amidst a consolidated sector that continues to rely on outdated strategy.
“Each letter of Oasis stands for a particular component of our strategy: Overview to Investments, Asset Allocation, Sector Selection, Industry Options, and Stock Weighting. Within each of the steps, we’ve intertwined a series technological components to further our analysis, such as novel; deep learning neuroscience games to gauge Ms. Sohoni’s risk mindset; a predictive model to determine future macroeconomic conditions; an investment metric, SocScore, based on a mathematical function and neural network that quantitatively determines risk exposure based on the financials of a company; and an innovative social reputation algorithm that utilizes machine learning to process news/Tweets about a company.”
The Livingston team also partnered with Desai’s personal nonprofit organization, the Economics Education Initiative (EEI), which works to bring financial literacy to underprivileged groups across the tri-state area. By conducting workshops and providing a personal-finance web platform, the EEI "routinely impacts under-resourced high school students" and has received recognition from Google, T-Mobile, United Way Worldwide and more, according to its founder.
“We’ve been working on our strategy and its corresponding components since July 2019,” said Desai. “What truly made our work stand out, in my opinion, was our niche focus on leveraging technology in wealth management to ultimately obtain precisely correlated metrics that would’ve been impossible to see by just looking at a balance sheet or some financials.”
The Livingston students submitted their final investment strategy in mid-December and were recently notified that they qualified as finalists in the competition.
“We felt honored that our hard work paid off; and, of course, we were delighted to hear that we’ll have the opportunity to present our strategy at the Wharton School, San Francisco,” said Desai, who thanked LHS economics and investments teacher Alex Lamon on behalf of the team for serving as an advisor throughout the competition.
Over the weekend of March 14, the Livingston students will travel to San Francisco to give a 10-minute presentation of their investment strategy, outcomes and recommendations. They will also field questions from the panelists and have an opportunity to meet the other finalists.
“We’re most excited to meet with the other finalists and see their unique approaches to managing Ms. Sohoni’s investments,” said Desai. “As of now, we don’t have any idea of what the other teams have developed, so it’ll be a surprising and insightful experience.”
During the competition, the judges will select the top three teams to be named global finalists. The top three teams will then have the opportunity to present their strategies at the Wharton School in Philadelphia in May 2020 for a $5,000 award and the title of Global Champion.