Investment competitions are a useful way to gain practical experience in the world of finance. They provide you with a platform to apply theoretical knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and understand the dynamics of the financial market. If you are a Wall Street enthusiast, then you should keep reading about the Wharton Global Youth Program's Investment Competition.
What is the Wharton Global Youth Program's Investment Competition?
The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania runs the Global Youth Program, a dedicated pre-collegiate sub-division that mobilizes Wharton’s resources to provide both online and on-site courses, a pre-baccalaureate course, and of course their signature investment competition.
The Investment Competition is a free, online, experiential investment simulation for high school students (9th to 12th grade) and teachers. It is designed to help students understand the complexities of investing in a dynamic global economy.
What makes the competition unique is that it’s not about making the most money on your virtual client’s portfolio. Instead, it focuses on the investment process and the development of a long-term investment strategy that aligns with the client's needs and objectives.
Eligibility for the Competition
The competition is open to current high school students across the globe, typically secondary-level (no younger than 14, no older than 18 at the start of the competition).
Teams must be composed of members from the same high school, maintaining a minimum of four team members and a maximum of seven members from start to end.
One of the team members will be registered as Team Leader for primary communications and submissions.
There must also be a registered team advisor, who must be a teacher/educator at the same high school.
Competition Structure and Timeline
The competition is primarily conducted online on WInS (the Wharton Investment Simulator). It begins on September 25, 2023, and teams must fully execute at least one trade on WInS by close of the U.S. markets (4:00 p.m. ET) on October 13, 2023, in order to be eligible to advance to the Semifinals and Global Finale. Your team will have just over a month of trading available before the Midterm Report is due on Oct 30th.
Trading will then continue till 1st Dec, and the Final Report is due from all teams on 11th Dec.
The top 50 teams qualifying for the Virtual Semifinals will be announced some time in January 2024, with the semifinals themselves taking place in March 2024.
The top 10 qualifying finalists will then move to the Global Finale at the Wharton campus in Philadelphia in April 2024, however teams have the option to participate virtually instead.
In both semifinals and the global finale, you and your team will be expected to create and deliver a 10-minute presentation detailing your strategy, analysis and experience over the 10 weeks of trading to a panel of judges.
Wharton’s Investment Competition is different from others in the sense that it does not have cash or physical prizes on offer. All students on teams that submit and meet the minimum requirements of both deliverables will receive participation certificates. Each student member of the global champion team will receive a complimentary spot in Wharton's online summer program, Future of the Business World or Essentials of Leadership, each worth $4,099. Each student member from all 10 global finalist teams will have the course fee waived for Wharton's online course, Understanding Your Money, a course with a $329 admission fee.
Is the competition prestigious?
Wharton has been running the Investment Competition for just over 10 years, with the latest iteration bringing in nearly 7,000 participants from 64 countries.
While the slightly lower participation and lack of a large prize pool make this competition not as prestigious as others (say, the Paradigm Challenge or the Blue Ocean Competition), its focus on a cohesive long-term investment strategy rather than short-term gains reflects the real-world complexities of investment management, making it still a valuable experience for participants. The fact that it is hosted by Wharton, one of the world’s most prestigious business schools, does not by itself make it prestigious, but compared to similar competitions which are hosted by relatively lesser-known organizations/institutions, there is a cachet attached to winning the competition.
Should you participate?
While Wharton makes the investment competition incredibly accessible, you should consider carefully before committing to it. You should strongly consider participating if:
You want to master investment - the structure of the competition, and especially the WInS software, is comprehensive and detailed. Together with your team, you’ll have to design an investment strategy, select stocks across sectors, keep a hawk-eye on the stock market, execute trades, and react tactically to ensure you deliver your client portfolio’s objectives.
You want a foothold at Wharton - winning or reaching the semifinals ensures access to a Wharton course. If you are gunning for an admission at Wharton, this can prove as a stepping stone in building your profile for it. Fair warning, we do not mean that this competition will directly help you with undergrad admissions to Wharton, but it’ll open some doors where you can perform well and impress faculty through participation in the course!
You want to build a career in finance - the rigor and deep practical experience of the competition aside, in the semifinals and finals you will be presenting to industry executives from companies like JP Morgan, Harvest Partners private equity, and similar industry bigwigs. The exposure and networking provided by the competition can open many doors for you in the future.
You have access to an advisor - advisors have a crucial role to play in educating, guiding and motivating you in this competition, and if your school has an investment club or finance club or a teacher that is interested and experienced in investment, you are already ahead of the curve. Working with this advisor will enhance your own learning and make it easier to find other students to build a team as well.
You want a global opportunity - Wharton’s investment competition is one of the very few that allows you to compete entirely virtually if you so choose. If you are constrained by studying in a different country or are limited by the availability of funds, this competition is one of the most accessible for you to showcase your knowledge with minimal cost.
However, before registering do make sure you’re ready for:
A significant commitment - the competition lasts for 10 weeks, with another week of report preparation. You will have to stay consistent, alert, and motivated for the entire duration to ensure optimal performance. It also involves significant day trading, which means you and your team will have to spend a good chunk of time monitoring the stock market and executing the trades on WInS. This is even worse if you’re located in a country other than the US, as the trading window WInS is matched to the US stock market timings, which may be inconvenient for you depending on your timezone.
The possibility of no reward - with close to a 1,000 teams participating and only 50 moving to the semifinals, there is a strong possibility that you will emerge from it with nothing more than the increased expertise of investment that you gained. Make sure that knowledge alone is worth it for you.
Tips to Win
If you’re clear that Wharton’s Investment Competition sounds like the right idea for you to participate in, then we have a few tips that will hopefully help you reach the finals:
1. Understand the evaluation criteria - as mentioned earlier, this competition is NOT about simply maximizing portfolio returns. The midterm and final reports are judged on 5 criteria, quoted from the evaluation page:
Investment strategy: contains a clear and creative strategy thesis; demonstrates mid-term and long-term investment thinking; the portfolio is invested in at least as many sectors as there are team members.
Client knowledge and objectives: strategy is tailored uniquely to the client’s financial goals; would win him/her over as a client.
Portfolio analysis: demonstrates a clear understanding of new concepts and investment tools; uses both quantitative and qualitative analysis.
Articulation of competition experience: demonstrates good teamwork and communication; the team clearly explains the decision-making process and what they learned from the competition.
Creativity and presentation: compelling narrative and visually pleasing presentation of data; many creative elements; clearly presented with an authentic team voice.
2. Prepare thoroughly - Wharton provides a comprehensive list of all the previous year case studies that you can and should work through to understand the kind of portfolios you may be given and what the ideal strategy should be. There is also a dedicated page with student resources on core financial and investment concepts, as well as a lesson plan for advisors to teach their teams. This also brings us to the next point.
3. Work with your advisor - your advisor will have a huge role to play in your success. They will guide you, shape your strategy with you, act as a sounding board for ideas, check your progress, and overall give structure to your entire effort. At the end of the day however, you and your team will be the ones executing the trading strategy, and it is your responsibility to ask for the advisor’s help wherever you need it. And you WILL need it.
4. Communicate clearly - while this is generally applicable advice, in this competition it deserves repetition. As mentioned above, you will be judged on your investment strategy, client knowledge and portfolio analysis. You must be able to clearly showcase, both in your written reports and in the live presentations, your team’s mastery of these three criteria. More than employing industry jargons, you will need to be clear, concise, insightful and articulate.
5. Stay motivated - 10 weeks of active trading is challenging even for industry veterans, much less high school students with multiple commitments and limited experience. Create a structured working plan with your advisor to avoid burnout of individual members, with regular meet-ups and check-ins to ensure all of you stay consistent.
The Wharton Global Youth Program's Investment Competition is a unique opportunity for high school students to gain practical, hands-on experience in investment management. It offers an accessible simulation structured to make you familiar with all aspects of investment in the real world. It is particularly beneficial if you are interested in making a career in finance or business, thanks to its exposure to industry executives and access to Wharton Business School’s courses. However, it requires a significant and consistent commitment. If you are looking to start early on the fundamentals of investment to add to your existing profile as a future finance executive, then this may be the right competition for you.
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Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!
If you are passionate about conducting research (including business research), you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.
Image Source: Wharton's Global High School Investment Competition logo