by Tony Moore
Dickinson has long been recognized for its commitment to a challenging, rigorous liberal-arts education that prepares students for success in a rapidly changing world. A new facet of that ethos was recently on display during the inaugural Investment Competition, which wound down in early December after a 10-week run.
“We now live in a world where everyone is financially connected, and at Dickinson, financial literacy is a critical part of our liberal arts-based business education,” says Mengnan Zhu, assistant professor of international business & management. “Employers—especially in the business and finance industry—value candidates who acquire hands-on skills through experiential learning activities. This unique experience highlights our students' competitive advantages in the ability to implement knowledge and the confidence to face challenges.”
The competition, entered by 56 students and designed to minimize the mental and financial stress often found in the trading world, was supported by Department of International Business & Management faculty, the Career Center, student groups, alumni and industry professionals. Contestants—among them international students and four first-year and four exchange students—traded $1 million in virtual money on a real-time, simulated platform. President John E. Jones III '77, P'11, Provost and Dean Renée Ann Cramer as well as alumni and industry professionals were present to award the prizes and make remarks.
Maxwell Dunkle ’27 (undeclared) took home the first-place prize of $500 on the heels of a staggering 87.8% HPR. HPR, holding period return, represents the total return earned by an investment over the period it was held, and it dictated student success in the contest. He held ETFs (exchange-traded funds) of the Dow Jones, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq markets, complimented by an inverse ETF to hedge against risk.
“My strategy consisted of forming a weekly bias at the beginning of the week and entering a trade if the trend matched my bias, based on market research,” he says, noting that he used stop-loss orders, which fire automatically if an investment falls to a certain chosen price, to mitigate downside risk. “Through the competition, I gained insightful information that has made me a better trader, and my interest in option trading has grown tremendously. I’m excited to compete next year.”
The winner of the competition, Maxwell Dunkle '27, turned in an astounding 10-week total return of nearly 88%. Photo by Dan Loh.
Hana Vu ’25 (international business & management and quantitative economics), focusing on capturing stock rallies, particularly during the Q3 earnings season, took the $300 second place prize with a solid 22.3% HPR. Daniela Davletbaeva, with a total HPR of 8.3%, took the $200 prize for third, saying “luck was on my side.” Seven other students were honored for strong finishes as well.
The competition was open to all Dickinson students and allowed for diverse investment strategies with a wide range of asset classes, including equities, fixed-income securities, derivatives and cryptocurrencies. Short selling and trading on margin were also permitted, adding another layer of complexity and realism to the competition. The competition was held on the platform StockTrak, and the total number of trades for each competitor was 300 (15 daily). No more than 25% of the portfolio value could be invested in a single asset.
The trades were flying, with an average of 43 per contestant across the 50 days, with the last trade made just six minutes before the competition ended. As in the real world, megacap tech drew the most interest, with both the most held and the most shorted stocks being Apple, Amazon and Tesla.
As expected, the Investment Competition provided students with a unique opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience in finance; apply their knowledge of financial markets, international business practices and quantitative analysis; and network with faculty, industry professionals and fellow students.
“I had a great time in the competition and learned a lot, and I’m taking the Investments class this semester, so the competition is a great opportunity to see how things play out in real life,” says Vu, who noted that it helped her develop the habit of checking economic and financial news more frequently. “I want to thank Professor Zhu for regularly checking in and giving advice, the career center for giving a seminar to help me confidently talk about this and the alumni for sharing their industry insights—all of which made my experience really positive and well-rounded.”
Published December 8, 2023