Wesley Pytlowany (MBA ’20)

Last semester, Wesley Pytlowany (MBA ’20) went beyond the curriculum and found an innovative way to bring fellow MBA students closer together. Pytlowany started a virtual stock exchange competition on MarketWatch, a website that provides stock market data and analysis, engaging MBA students — and faculty — in a friendly rivalry.

“I created the simulation to bring the class together in a spirit of friendly competition,” Pytlowany explained. He described the experience as an opportunity for MBA students to get to know each other, test their financial investment skills and, of course, win bragging rights.

His competition involved 31 participants, including Frederick S. Addy Distinguished Chair in Finance Charles Hadlock, who has taught finance for 25 years.

“In my classes I teach a concept called market efficiency, which says that information regarding market values should be trusted as legitimate,” he said. This concept implies that it is impossible to beat the market based on pure speculation.

Hadlock ended up placing 23rd, and he explained how this ranking proves the hypothesis of market efficiency. “Having taught finance for as long as I have, I’d say I know more than the students, but they all did better than I did, which kind of proves my point that there’s no such thing as ‘stock picking skill,’” he said.

Pytlowany, who opted to stay out of the competition and serve as a coordinator, observed that “everyone adopted their own unique trading strategies, and some worked out better than others.”

MBA student Sahil Garg finished first in the simulation with $67,489.23 in virtual winnings. “I learned to be patient and not trade too often and to have a diverse portfolio,” Garg said. “I focused on investing for a bit longer, rather than trading daily. Initially I lost too much money by frequent trade, so I decided to focus on long-term [gains] and chose not to check my portfolio very often.”

Hadlock reflected that the competition was a great learning opportunity for students because there was no risk involved. The students who participated began to take a more active interest in the stock market and took every opportunity to better their understanding.

“This experience kept students engaged with market happenings as well as how the market works,” Hadlock said. “This was a great exercise that was driven by students, which really shows their initiative.”

Pytlowany will finish his MBA program in May 2020 and has accepted an offer with a management consulting firm in Chicago. As he prepares for his bold next steps, he hopes that the MBA program will continue the tradition by hosting another competition next fall.

“The MBA office was receptive to this competition, and I believe they recognize the importance of friendly competition and student–faculty interaction,” he said.