Four University of Lynchburg students took second place in the 2018 Federal Reserve Challenge, a competition focused on monetary policy at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
Thanks to their academic preparation and involvement in the Student-managed Investment Fund, the Lynchburg students thrived in the competition and bested larger teams from much larger schools, including University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Radford University.
“It’s good that a small school can compete against big universities and be on the same level,” said Rebecca Taylor ’19, one of the Lynchburg team members.
Claudia Lopez Perez ’22, another teammate, said the success resulted from the team’s preparation and passion. “We were confident with what we knew and were eager to share and make the most out of our experience,” she said. “More than anything, we wanted to enjoy and learn from this unique experience and supported each other as much as we could.”
The team was composed of finance and economics majors who want to learn more about monetary policy. In addition to Taylor and Lopez Perez, the team included Scott Wade ’20, Josh Bayliss ’19, and Claudia Lopez Perez ’22. The competition took place on November 3 at James Madison University.
Dr. Mike Schnur, the team’s faculty advisor, has been involved in the Federal Reserve Challenge for years and was a big advocate for the University of Lynchburg team, Taylor said. In addition to recruiting the team members for the competition, Dr. Schnur got them involved with the Student-managed Investment Fund, which gives them practice managing a real stock portfolio and conducting economic research with professional tools, such as a Bloomberg Terminal. Both in class and in the investment fund, students are building relationships with each other as well as with their professors.
“At the investment fund, we have an incredible team,” Lopez Perez said. “We have a very professional atmosphere where we get a glimpse of the real world, which I think is key and essential for anyone wanting to go into the finance industry.”
The Federal Reserve Challenge allows students to put their own skills to the test, while also seeing what other students at other schools are learning, preparing them to compete in the world of finance.
Students competed in two rounds. The first was a group effort where students gave a 10-minute presentation about the future outlook of the economy and how the Federal Reserve should proceed. Their work was judged by officials from the Federal Reserve and university professors.
The students used the University’s Bloomberg terminal access to gather information on stock indexes, market forecasts, and analytics. “Bloomberg was a help in coming up with a strong argument, and we were able to use the analytics well to gauge the market and help us win our case,” Taylor said.
The team’s various perspectives helped, too, Lopez Perez said. “It was challenging as we did not have much time, but it was a great experience,” Lopez Perez said. “We had a very good balance between perspectives as we are all from very different backgrounds and experiences and this really helped us come up with our thesis and main points. … We complemented each other perfectly and added different point of views to make our presentation much more complete.”
After the first round, University of Lynchburg advanced to the final round to face Virginia Commonwealth University. Each team was given a theory of monetary policy and collaborated for ten minutes to prepare another presentation about the theory and how the Federal Reserve should act to keep the economy thriving.
Although the Lynchburg team did not win the final round, becoming runner up was a new level of success that the students hope to see repeated, and surpassed, in the future. They hope to grow the team and make it sustainable for future generations. “The competition is a different approach other than the classroom and is very collaborative,” Taylor said. “It is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.”
Lopez Perez said the team experience made it worthwhile. “I was very lucky, I had very passionate and motivated teammates,” she said. “I felt very supported by my teammates and I think that our strong teamwork was reflected when presenting.”