“If you could make Wall Street listen, what would you say?”
The larger-than-life poster hanging on the side of the Usdan staircase speaks to the activities and pursuits of the Cardinal Investors, which meets twice a week to engage in a mock stock market trading game.
“During the blackout, I was at the park near Wall Street,” said Cardinal Investors member Ross Berger ’14. “The Occupy Wall Street movement seems to have dwindled down a lot. There were still people holding signs that had clear messages, but then there were just people in tents, playing music and singing and selling things and just being ‘activists.’”
Hordes of students have traveled to New York to support the movement, yet few course offerings in finance suggest that the typical academic program does not emphasize the inner workings of the financial system.
“Being at a liberal arts school means we don’t have as much exposure to fields like finance and business,” said Cardinal Investors member Jeremy Edelberg ’14, who has been trading real stocks since middle school. “Being part of a group like the Cardinal Investors is a good way for people to satisfy these interests.”
Cardinal Investors was founded earlier this year by Andrew Perlmutter ’13, Trevor Rhodes ’12, and Ben Firn ’14. The club currently has around 4o members. Perlmutter is a previous member of the Wesleyan Investment Group, which manages a portion of the University’s endowment. This experience inspired him to create a space in which students could learn about the stock market without the high pressure of dealing with actual money.
“It’s a really laid-back, even humorous atmosphere,” Perlmutter said. “But we also get down to pretty substantive discussions. It’s a smaller movement to get Wesleyan to be more corporate friendly. The beauty of this group is that it allows you to supplement what you’re studying here.”
For many participants, mock investing is a valuable educational experience.
“I feel like this club is a way for people to really learn more about investing, and to make mistakes and learn from them without the financial consequences,” Berger said.
The group meets every Monday and Tuesday from 8-9 p.m. in Allbritton 004. Individuals start off with $500,000 to “invest,” and teams compete in buying and trading stocks via stocktrak.com.
The student with the highest return at the beginning of December will receive a $100 Amazon gift card.
With the help of alumni, the Cardinal Investors also plans to bring speakers to campus. The group has set up tentative Skype appointments with bank representatives and Wall Street traders. During meetings, members discuss current events and investing tips.
“You have to think about different companies—industrial and financial, and how they’re affected by sociological, political, and economic factors,” Edelberg said.
Perlmutter believes that such discussion, contrary to popular belief, can actually be quite fun.
“It’s like fantasy football,” he said. “You develop that sense, that intuition. Our groups have progressed from buying really obvious stocks to doing more research and figuring out what’s going to work.”
The Cardinal Investors has attracted a range of students majoring in a wide variety of majors other than Economics, including Government and Sociology.
Taking an interest in finance is especially relevant in light of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the overall uncertainty of the post-recession economy.
“The present tells us about the future,” Edelberg said, who predicts a double-dip recession. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; we sense things are bad so we don’t spend as much. It’s not just your Average Joe; large corporations are apprehensive as well.”