The Montano Student Investment Fund (SMIF) recently hosted the Alpha Challenge, the group’s first stock pitch competition on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus. More than $3,000 in cash prizes were awarded to student participants. Judged by industry leaders in consulting, investment banking, private equity, and asset management, the event offered students the opportunity to showcase their skills, as well as build their networks.
“Students learned real-world skills that are difficult to pick up in the classroom,” says Derek Horstmeyer, professor of finance, and co-founder and director of the Montano Student Investment Fund. “Pitching their value investing strategies to a room of professionals really helps them hone presentation skills and gets their name out there to asset managers in the Washington, D.C. area.”
Open to all majors at Mason, the Alpha Challenge focused on finance skills, finance classes, and networking. The event was divided into two tiers, the Alpha Tier and the Beta Tier. The Alpha Tier was for students familiar to financial analysis and stock pitching skills. The Beta Tier served as an introduction to the stock pitch competition and intended for students with limited to no finance experience. The competition’s objective was for student teams to choose, research, and pitch a stock for consideration for inclusion in the Montano Student Investment Fund. Students were provided with resources to help them improve their skills in equity research and stock pitching.
Chaitanaya Manya Vij, president of the Montano Student Investment Fund Investment Committee, proposed the idea to Horstmeyer after participating in the CFA Challenge with a team from Mason in February 2021. “That experience prompted me to wonder why a similar event wasn’t being held at Mason,” says Vij. “I thought an event like this, open to all Mason students, had the potential to create buzz around the school, and came with the opportunity of exposing the SMIF to students across the university.”
And the event did just that.
More than 50 students encompassed 17 teams registering for the challenge from across Mason, including one team from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). A preliminary elimination round narrowed the group down to nine teams of 27 students who presented at the event to judges, former SMIF officers, alumni, and School of Business faculty and staff.
Winners for the night included Kalidindi Armaan and Marni Sumant in first place for the Beta competition, and Gilberto “David” Carrillo, and Adil Shah for the Alpha competition. Both teams walked away with $1,000.
Judges for the event included Mike Brynda '21, former Montano Student Investment Fund president; Alifia Doriwala, CO-CIO of The Rock Creek Group’s OCIO, Multi Asset Class Solutions; Ajmal (AJ) Hachim '13, vice president at Berkshire Global Advisors; Ardavan Mobasheri, managing director and chief investment officer of ACIMA Private Wealth and adjunct faculty member of finance; Trevor Montano ’00, founder and managing member of West Potomac Capital LLC; JP Phaup, MBA '91, former managing director at Wells Fargo Advisors; Alex Philipov, area chair and associate professor of finance at George Mason School of Business; and Steve Pilloff, associate professor of finance at George Mason School of Business.
Graduating in December with a finance degree and a minor in business analytics, Vij helped plan the event while interning in NYC, with the help of the SMIF officers including vice presidents of the SMIF investment Committee, Tyler Harb and Natalia Palacios, and members of the SMIF Risk Committee, Elan Guzman, president, and Ioana Baranga and Ethan Ioannou, vice presidents.
“It’s really awesome to see this tangible change, and the impact an idea can have, and how it can go a million different directions, and then how it finally comes to life,” says Vij. “This is an event we can look forward to for years to come.” The Montano Student Investment Fund is a fund that is managed by a select group of Finance majors at George Mason University. Students are in charge of monitoring the current portfolio and making all alteration decisions to the portfolio amongst themselves through a voting procedure outlined in the bylaws of the fund. The fund offers students a hands-on approach to market research, equity valuation and risk analysis.