On Wednesday March 25, four students from the Student Investment Advisory Service Fund (SIAS) departed Vancouver to attend the first (and likely annual) ENGAGE International Investment Education Symposium in Detroit, Michigan. Tina Zhang, Sabrina Psai, Elham Saeedy, and I, Robert Person attended the conference which had taken the place of a similar conference, RISE, that was attended every year by a team of students representing SFU and SIAS.
With more than 2,000 students in attendance, ENGAGE is now the largest international student investment conference. Over the two days of the conference, students experienced a diverse set of events to further their knowledge of the investment industry and broaden their perspectives of current issues in the world of finance and economics.
The first day of the conference was filled with moderated discussions on a variety of topics. The first topic was the Federal Reserve Perspective with Dennis P. Lockhart, President & CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Mr. Lockhart is also a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee. We later realized from the other discussions, interest rates in the US and the plans of the FOMC would be a dominating theme to be heard. Following the federal market perspective, we heard about the Detroit economic development perspective and a keynote discussion about the Global economy. The second keynote discussion was regarding the financials industry. The moderator and speakers were, respectively, Mellody Hobson, Scott F. Powers, and Fred Tomczyk. To acknowledge the esteem of the group, one must only realize that between the three, they represent over $3 trillion in assets under management. The day was finished with another panel discussion regarding domestic and international markets.
Following each discussion the panel was taking time to answer students’ questions from the audience. One of the most interesting and motivating experiences was hearing the questions and answers from other students. They demonstrated such a high level of understanding of current events and issues.
The second day of the conference consisted of a variety of breakout sessions that allowed students to choose and attend particular topics that interested them. The topics ranged from hedge funds to career planning advice, among others. During the day, students who had entered the stock pitch competition presented to a panel and audience members for round two of the competition and subsequently, the final round. CNBC, being one of the many event sponsors, broadcasted a live show from the venue that day as well.
Both the second day and the end of the conference, was concluded during the awards reception. At this event, the winners of the stock pitch competition were announced as well as the winners of the student run portfolio competition. The portfolio competition comprised four categories based on investment style and an overall category. The categories for style were: growth, value, and balanced. The SIAS team was disappointed to find out that we had lost the balanced category. However, as the grand prize was announced, we realized that we had lost the balanced category because we won the Overall Highest Risk-Adjusted Return in a student run portfolio, the grand prize! Our team excitedly accepted our cheque for $2,500 and concluded the two long but rewarding days.
In addition to this academic studies at SFU Robert is also involved in student government where he is the MSc Finance Class Representative for the Graduate Business Students Association. Robert also holds an executive position in the Student Investment Advisory Service where he leads a team of analysts as the US Equity Portfolio Manager. Upon completion of his degree at SFU Robert plans to pursue a career in capital markets.