Student group grows profits, experience

by Lucas Thayer

The members of the Whitworth Student Investment Group (WSIG) gather twice a week to discuss the future of the economy. The 30 members break into groups to research stocks, talk of the financial news and manage their $110,000 stock portfolio. It isn’t a simulation. The money is real, as are the risks.

The club is open to all majors. Club chair Austin Vierra said newly admitted members aren’t allowed to begin making big decisions right away.

“We have a big responsibility to manage that much money, and you need to know what you’re doing before you’re allowed to have a vote,” Vierra said. “It’s not hard to lose a lot of money on the stock market if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

For the most part, the members are in charge of teaching each other how to invest on the open market. Their goal is educational, not just fiscal.

“Our goal is to make a return, and we want to try to outperform the market. At the same time, our goal is ultimately a learning process, to be able to apply these things to the real world,” Vierra said.

Vierra said he believes it’s a good way for people to be informed of how to handle their own finances.

“We don’t have a finance program at Whitworth. I think this really is showing that there’s a latent desire in the student body to really push for a finance program to become a reality,” Vierra said.

The studies of economics and finance are two distinct fields, but are somewhat closely related. Economics is the study of how goods are produced, consumed and distributed. The study of economics establishes assumptions that businesses can use to operate competitively. Finance deals with the actual logistics and fine details of carrying out exchanges on the open market.

Since there isn’t a finance major at Whitworth, the group’s founding members had to learn to invest on their own, Vierra said. From there, they went on to teach others how to invest.

Learning to invest is a valuable skill for an individual of any major, said Brian “Duff” Bergquist, executive-in-residence for the Whitworth School of Global Commerce & Management and the group’s adviser.

“Next semester there’s a few more finance classes being offered. We’re hoping for a minor down the road, and eventually a major,” Vierra said.

Currently, WSIG’s portfolio is one-tenth the size of the portfolio of Gonzaga’s student investment group. In the future, Vierra said, the group aims to receive funding from the school to have its own research lab.

The group was started last year by a several students who taught themselves how to navigate the stock market with guidance from Bergquist. They presented their charter to two trustees for approval, who then provided the money for investment. Now the group operates freely on the free market.

The group only handles buy and hold orders, the most basic type of investment. Members assess a stock to determine if the it will yield the desired amount.

“Any gains that we make in the market, we get to reinvest those and we get to use those how we choose,” Vierra said. In the past, the group used its profits to fund research on campus and to buy new software.

Considering the recent state of the economy, Vierra said he would guess an overall stagnant market, with minor increases in health.

“Is it a good time to invest? From a true investor’s standpoint, you shouldn’t really care what the market’s doing,” Vierra said.

Contact Lucas Thayer at lthayer12@my.whitworth.edu.

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