Aaron Benia, a junior at the Lander College for Men (LCM), won the school’s fall semester Stock Market Challenge, his third victory in the last four contests. A psychology major with a minor in marketing management, Benia had an incredible 28 percent return on investments.
The biannual contest, organized by senior Avraham Weiser and junior Shlomi Landesman, is an opportunity for students at LCM to try their hand at investing like real-time stock traders. Each of the 45 contestants received 1 million “dollars” to invest in any shares available on the New York Stock Exchange (within certain restrictions: contestants cannot purchase penny stocks and a maximum of 20 percent of one’s credit can be invested in one company).
“This competition enables students to apply the sophisticated theories they learn in class to the practical realities of investment,” said to Dr. Moshe Sokol, dean of LCM.
A native of Toronto, Benia said his strategy was relatively simple: Each day he would note which stocks were down 15 percent or more and then check out the performance over the prior three months. If it was at the lowest price over that time, he would buy. If it continued to fall, he doubled it. It didn’t always work—the one time he didn’t win he lost $80K—but more often than not he’s made a profit. In his two previous victories he finished with very impressive returns in the mid-teens.
“It’s a pretty well-known strategy,” he said. “Obviously there’s no easy way or some people would [consistently] be making a lot of money on the stock market.” He said that a few of his friends had jokingly accused him of insider trading.
Benia said that, despite his apparent financial talent, he plans to pursue a master’s in psychology after he graduates next January. Although he’s tempted to see if his success in the contest would translate to the real market, he said that the pressure of losing actual dollars might take away the fun. “It’s risky with real money. With real money it would consume more of your life.”
The Lander College Investment Group, which meets every other week to discuss matters related to the financial world, oversees the contest and has its own entry as well. The members collaborate on its investments and should it win, whichever member suggested a stock with the highest return would receive the $100 cash prize.
“And the bragging rights. You can’t forget about the bragging rights,” said Weiser.
Like Benia, most members of the Investment Club are not finance majors. Weiser said this reinforces one of the goals of the contest, to demonstrate that investing isn’t just for the fast-moving bankers and brokers.
“The point is to get rid of the scariness of investing and get people comfortable with the process,” said Weiser, himself a marketing major and the lone investor to unseat Benia in the last four contests. “We want to create an interest in learning about companies and teach people to look at them from a financial point of view.” v