Talk about intimidating. A group of kids from Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School had to advise a multimillionaire entrepreneur how to invest his money.
It was part of an international high school competition held at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the most prestigious business schools in the country.
The kids must have done OK. The Southwest Ranches school was ranked in the top 12 out of more than 175 high schools that competed internationally in the Knowledge@Wharton High School competition.
Eighty-five of those schools turned in final investment strategies during the 12-week competition sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management, a Philadelphia-based global investment management group.
Team members flew to Philadelphia at the end of April to present their investment strategy to an audience of 75 that included a judging panel of asset managers from Aberdeen.
Junior Lara Suarez and seniors Marissa Salaya, Claudia Teresa and Gabriel Tejada came up with a strategy to manage a portfolio of $100,000 in virtual cash using the Online Trading Investment Simulator created by the computer science department at Wharton.
Their “client” was multimillionaire Jack Abraham, a former Wharton student who started Milo, a software shopping engine that was sold to eBay for a reported $75 million in 2010. The four students talked with Abraham during a Skype session about a diversified portfolio that they devised that included stock in Apple, Google, Tesla Motors, Wells Fargo Bank, Foot Locker and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.
“He was very insightful and encouraging,” said Salaya, the team leader. Abraham told the McCarthy team that he was impressed with what the four had come up with, Salaya said.
Salaya said she came away from the Skype session and later the in-person presentation at Wharton with renewed confidence. “Hard work really does pay off. I just learned: Don’t sell yourself short,” she said, adding “You can’t get nervous.”
Her teacher, Kim Zocco, who teaches business at Archbishop McCarthy, accompanied her students to the competition in Philadelphia after discovering Wharton’s competition — and persuading her students to compete.
“My greatest challenge is trying to keep teenagers engaged and interested, so I am always looking for new material,” Zocco said.
Her students proved to be enthusiastic in learning about risk, diversification, company analysis, industry analysis and investing, she said.
“Our team was simply amazing, smart and motivated. They competed against impressive, highly qualified teams from all over the world,” Zocco said.
Ultimately, they didn’t win the top three awards. But the knowledge learned was priceless, Salaya said.