Wall Street Bound launches stock-picking contest with celebrity judges

A nonprofit organization that trains underrepresented college students and recent graduates for careers in finance lined up two big names as judges in a stock-picking contest awarding thousands of dollars in educational stipends.

Kim Lew, the CEO of Columbia University’s $14 billion endowment, and Josh Brown, the CEO of $2.7 billion Ritholtz Wealth Management, are joining Wall Street Bound founder Troy Prince to choose a winner next year from up to roughly 500 students who have completed the organization’s educational programs or are currently enrolled in them. The contest starts in late October, with 10 finalists selected next April based on the risk-adjusted returns of a simulated $100,000 portfolio composed of stocks and exchange-traded funds. Finalists will have to explain the rationale behind their portfolio to the judges, who will choose three winners.   

Brown said in an interview that the organization’s message “that Wall Street overlooks millions of kids just because they don’t play rugby or go to private school” resonated with him. Wall Street Bound’s first “Stock Picking Challenge” comes as the rise of direct indexing emphasizes active equity selection, an approach that lost favor in recent years as passive funds grew dominant.  

Brown added that “what I really want to do here is offer encouragement.” He said that he’s hoping to add “something constructive I could say that maybe stops someone from making a mistake” in a future interview. He has known Prince, who was named one of Financial Planning’s 21 People who will Change Wealth Management in 2021, since the latter, a 20-year industry veteran, launched the organization in 2019. 

With three programs ranging from a “bootcamp” on finance to a 10-week course and a year-long “Diverse Trader Training,” Wall Street Bound has drawn sponsorships from the National Football League, the Stocktwits social media platform, education company Kaplan and investment firms Baird and VanEck, as well as from U.S. Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Earlier this year, the nonprofit also became a partner of the Financial Services Institute, a separate 10-week program for Black college sophomores offered by Inroads, a minority internship organization, with support from firms including J.P. Morgan Chase.

Wall Street Bound has set a goal of training “10,000 young urban dreamers by 2030 to achieve more,” its website states.

In a statement, Prince called the stock-picking contest and its focus on stock selection, portfolio composition, risk-adjusted return, and oral presentations  “a natural extension of the Wall Street Bound ethos and our desire for students to begin experiencing institutional rigor in everything that they do.”

The top winner will receive $2,500 toward certification training, examinations or tuition, with $1,000 for second place and $500 for third. Investopedia is a media partner. Wall Street Bound will open applications in early October, with the contest running between Oct. 24 and April 28. The rules forbid competitors from riding any single security to victory through a limit of no more than 10% of the portfolio’s holdings in any one position.

Regardless of who wins, the industry only stands to gain bright young minds, according to Brown. The author of the “Reformed Broker” blog and frequent CNBC commentator has pledged to support Wall Street Bound in its efforts to create more pathways into the industry. 

From solo practitioner offices to the largest wealth managers in the industry, “virtually none of our businesses have enough representation” of women or Black, Hispanic and other minority advisors, Brown said. Less than a quarter of planners are women and fewer than 5% are Black or Hispanic, according to CFP Board data

“If we want to serve the American people, we should probably look a lot more like what the American people look like demographically,” Brown said. “All the talk about diversity and inclusion and representation — I actually think it’s one of the few things that’s not a cliche. It’s having an impact in the way that firms are recruiting and the way that firms are hiring.”

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