by Angela Park, Communications Associate
EVA team members at the Knowledge@Wharton High School Investment Competition at the University of Pennsylvania in March. From left: Guilhermo G., Breno S., Edmond S., João A., Felipe L., and advisor Frederico Mesnik '87.
It started out with a small idea.
“A Graded alum approached us about an incredible competition,” recalled junior Breno S. “We brought the idea to Gui, who was the leader of the Investment Club [at Graded].”
Shortly thereafter, several members of Graded’s High School Investment Club organized themselves to form Eagles Value Added (EVA), the school’s first student-led investment team to compete in the University of Pennsylvania’s Knowledge@Wharton High School Investment Competition. The investment competition, launched in 2011, provides an investment simulation for high school students all over the world. Each team manages a $100,000 portfolio of virtual cash, and throughout the competition, students oversee risk, diversification, company and industry analysis.
“We were all interested in investment, but we weren’t all specialists in the beginning,” said senior Guilhermo ‘Gui’ G. “We had to learn about everything, and gradually we followed our interests and passions to become specialists [in our field].”
The team was fortunate to find an advisor, Graded alumnus Frederico Mesnik ‘87, to help them navigate the investment world. “The first time they came into my office, they knew nothing about finance. I gave them three books to read over the break, so they all went home and read them,” recalled Mesnik. “Then, when they came back in January of 2018, we started to put together [a plan] for the first competition.”
Every Thursday, the students would head to Trígono Capital, Mesnik’s asset management firm, to hear and learn from a group of professionals. “I don’t think I can emphasize how much we practiced,” said junior João A. His fellow team member junior Felipe L. recalled that although they worked very hard, they found the experience to be a tremendously enriching one.
EVA’s first competitive experience took place during the Brazil Knowledge@Wharton High School Investment Competition, hosted by the Wharton Alumni Club of Brazil. Despite their initial nervousness, the team members felt prepared. After all, they had devoted numerous hours over the course of the year toward their strategy and portfolio.
“They won the competition hosted by the Wharton Alumni Club of Brazil, but didn’t manage to go to the final [round of the competition] in Pennsylvania,” informed Mesnik.
Instead of expressing disappointment, however, the students emerged more determined to perform better the following year. According to Breno, “It’s about having resilience, not complaining about feedback, but just working harder.”
. . .
This year, EVA took gold again in the Brazilian competition and qualified to compete in Philadelphia’s Global Region 3 Finale in March. The team, joined by mentor Mesnik, traveled to the United States two weeks ago for 36 hours of real-world experience.
Team members present their investment portfolio and strategy to judges.
During their short trip, members visited BTG Pactual in New York City, where they had the opportunity to engage with the investment bank's key leaders. Immediately thereafter, they headed to the University of Pennsylvania for the competition.
When the judges announced the winners, the team leapt for joy. EVA placed first among more than 650 high school investment teams, and advanced to the May Global Finale, where they will compete against eight other teams from China, India, and the United States.
“We were elated,” said João. “But I was more happy about the fact that our mentors were so happy, so content, and so proud than [I was] actually winning.”
With their $500 reward, EVA will contribute to the Graded Scholar Program. “If we win the Finals in May,” said Felipe, “we also hope to give that back [to the Graded Scholar Program].”
Through this self-driven initiative, team members have grown significantly, learning beyond finance. For Guilhermo, “It has really been about learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”
“It’s really about passion,” asserted junior Edmond S. “I’ve learned that it has to be much more than curiosity or interest [in order to persist].”
Most importantly, "students were able to learn a lot about leadership skills, team-building skills, and motivation, and all of these things that are important in the adult and professional life,” said Mesnik.
Members celebrate after winners are announced.
Photos are courtesy of Knowledge@Wharton High School.