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Investment Club Stuns National Conference Event

CANTON — No one expected much out of the four St. Lawrence University students who arrived this past weekend at the University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Investment Conference. This was the first time St. Lawrence had ever participated in such a competition, which is attended by well-known business schools such as New York University’s Stern School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, California Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Berkeley.

What’s more, the small team of participants from St. Lawrence’s Crown Royalty Investment Club had chosen a company as part of the stock-pitch competition that, just two days before their scheduled presentation, had lost more than 50 percent of its value due to fraud allegations. Luckily, the team had the opportunity to pitch their presentation just before the competition to members of the St. Lawrence Board of Trustees investment committee.

“We had been invited to give a half-hour presentation to the trustees just as the news hit about the company we had selected,” said Andrew Chan ’14 of Niskayuna, N.Y. “We did the pitch anyway. Our half-hour lasted almost three, and members of the board worked with us and told us how we could bounce back.”

Andrew and his teammates – Justin Champlain ’14 of Middleton, Mass., Evan Walsh ’14 of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Vasileios Prassas ’14 of Greece – stayed up most of that night, researching and reworking their pitch until they had to leave for the competition. They arrived in Michigan and delivered a presentation that rivaled any of their competitors.

“We went before some of the best hedge funds in America, and we took the competition by storm,” Andrew said. “They were skeptical that this small, liberal arts school many had never even heard of could even compete.”

The team took second place in their group stage, coming in just behind Stern School of Business, which is rated one of the top 10 business schools by U.S. News and World Report.

Peter W. FitzRandolph, associate professor of economics and faculty advisor to the investment club, said this experience highlights the learning community that exists at St. Lawrence.

“It was kind of an accident that these students had the opportunity to meet with members of the (Board of Trustees) investment committee right before the competition,” he said. “It may seem rather serendipitous, but this sort of thing happens a lot here. This kind of interaction between students, faculty and alumni – busy people in high-profile positions – doesn’t happen at other schools.”

The team met with trustees George Cochran P’06, P’08, P’10, P’14; Kirk Kellogg ’91; Cheryl Grandfield ’73; Zhihong “Hook” Huang ’02 and Eric Hanson ’70.

The Crown Royalty Investment Club is named after the late Herman Crown and was established in 1962 with a gift of $4,000 from the Arie and Ida Crown Memorial. More than 50 years later, the club continues to live out its original goal of providing students with the opportunity to manage a real portfolio of stocks, currently worth about $70,000.

Besides the expert advice the team received from members of the Board of Trustees, Andrew said there was something more that gave the team a competitive advantage.

“Having a liberal arts education gave us an edge over students from traditional business schools,” said Andrew, who participated in the New York City Semester and interned at Morgan Stanley, as did his teammate Vasileios. “We are taught here how to be creative and how to think outside the box by synthesizing the technical aspects of business with creativity. I think if I were from a business school, I would have given up on this company. But we had faith in our research, we have excellent communication skills, and we got great advice from the trustees.”

Despite the company’s loss in value, Andrew said the team still stands by their stock choice.