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Investing in winners: TU team takes Investment Portfolio Challenge gold

A team from The University of Tulsa was the first-place winner of the annual Investment Portfolio Challenge, sponsored by Phillips 66. This was the second year in a row that a TU team took home the trophy.

Held virtually on Nov. 18, 2020, seven teams from TU, the University of Arkansas, Oklahoma State University and Northeastern State University competed for prizes of $2,000 and $1,000. Their task was to take a hypothetical $5 million budget and see which team could create the best stock market portfolio.

TU Team 2, comprising Daniel Owens, Kearstin Hilligoss, Kristen Jacobs, Muriel Unseth and James Smith Williams, was victorious. The University of Arkansas’ Team 2 came in second.

“The Investment Portfolio Challenge was a difficult test in managing ambiguity,” said Daniel Owens, a member of the winning team. “The most difficult aspect of the challenge was sifting through all the relevant data and coming up with our own conclusions. This was a valuable opportunity to develop an in-depth economic report, as well as a chance to defend that report to numerous finance professionals.”

Eight women and men in a Zoom screenshot
Left column: Brian Bacher, VP, JPMorgan; Daniel Owens, TU Team 2 / Middle column: Michael Abboud, SVP, Portfolio Manager, Trust Company OK; Adjunct Professor Tally Ferguson; Kristen Jacobs, TU Team 2 / Right column: Muriel Unseth, Kearstin Hilligoss and James Smith Williams, TU Team 2

James Smith Williams, also on TU Team 2, added, “participating in the Investment Portfolio Challenge was a wonderful experience. The challenge helped us to gain a greater insight into the 11 sectors of the U.S. economy. It was an honor to see our hard work pay off.”

Students were asked to submit a video and written report one week prior to the event. On the morning of Nov. 18, each team had 15 minutes during which judges asked them questions about their submissions. The scores were tabulated after the event and the winners were announced during a Friends of Finance virtual gathering.

Another member of TU’s winning team, Kearstin Hilligoss, remarked, “the Investment Portfolio Challenge helped me apply the concepts I am learning in my finance and economics courses to the current market. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and I am thankful for the experience. This competition exemplified how TU students excel when compared to their peers and have promising careers ahead of them.”

“In a classroom setting we typically discuss more traditional investment scenarios where multiple phenomena aren’t occurring at once,” said Kristen Jacobs, also of TU Team 2. “In the challenge, I really enjoyed the qualitative perspective the phenomena, such as a pandemic and the presidential election, brought to our analysis and decision-making.”

The students’ efforts were evaluated by 11 judges from 8 companies: BOKF, Council Oak Wealth Advisors, George Kaiser Family Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, ONEOK, Phillips 66, Trust Company Oklahoma and Williams.

“These events are special to me,” one of the judges, said Michael Abboud of Trust Company Oklahoma. “I remember how hard it was to land a job in this space and, as a result, I’m always looking for ways to help students get a start. Thank you for letting me be a part of the event this year.”


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