Detroit Mercy business students shine in global investment competition

January 25, 2018
Detroit Mercy students Adam Ross, Paige Fairchild, Spiro Pliakos and Holly Hedemark all placed in the top 25 of the ETF Global Portfolio Challenge.

 Four University of Detroit Mercy business students placed in the top 25 in the world in the ETF Global Portfolio Challenge.

Adam Ross finished in 10th place, Paige Fairchild 13th place, Spiro Pliakos 15th place and Holly Hedemark 21st place.

“No other university had as many students among the top 25, and only four other universities had multiple winners, at two students each,” College of Business Administration Dean Joseph Eisenhauer said. “In this sense, our University outperformed all other participating institutions from around the world!”

ETF Global offers investors research and risk analysis that focuses on exchange traded funds (ETFs), and each semester, the firm sponsors an investment competition for college students.

Contestants in the Portfolio Challenge began the semester with a virtual balance of $100,000 and were tasked with constructing the best performing portfolio of exchange-traded funds. On average, the four Detroit Mercy students achieved a 12.46 percent rate of return.

“Being able to compete against people from around the world was the most enjoyable aspect of the challenge for me,” Ross said. “I’m a competitive person, so competing and holding my own against students from some of the top colleges around the world is what really made this experience so valuable and enjoyable.”

Pliakos, who is a member of the men’s soccer team and was named an Academic All-American, said the challenge definitely got his competitive juices flowing.

“Like Adam, I’m a pretty competitive guy, so any competition I am in, it always gets my best effort,” Pliakos said. “Also, the stock market is something that has always been of interest to me. When you combine my competitiveness with my interest in the stock market, it came out to be a really fun experience.”

Ross credits Detroit Mercy for helping him excel and in particular Associate Professor of Finance and Director of Graduate Business Programs Omid Sabbaghi.

“I have to give Dr. Sabbaghi a lot of credit when it comes to what I learned that helped me excel in this challenge,” Ross said. “Over the course of the semester, he not only helped me identify the style of investing that worked best for me, but also gave valuable insight into how the market operates and what to look for when deciding which stocks/ETFs to invest in.”

Detroit Mercy students Adam Ross, Paige Fairchild, Spiro Pliakos and Holly Hedemark all placed in the top 25 of the ETF Global Portfolio Challenge.Sabbaghi was pleased to see his students succeed and the commitment they made to the project.

“I was delighted that the students could implement their ideas in a setting similar to the real world and I was excited to observe their commitment in revisiting their portfolios on a periodic basis,” Sabbaghi said.

“The students’ success is further evidence that Detroit Mercy’s College of Business Administration is among the top business schools globally and further demonstrates the extent of our impact,” Sabbaghi added.

Detroit Mercy’s state-of-the-art Financial Markets Lab allowed the students to have the right environment to compete on a global level.

“I think that the software and technology in the Financial Markets Lab contributed significantly,” Sabbaghi said. “I also think that discussing ETFs in class and allocating in-class time for the students to execute their trades, contributed as well. The Financial Markets Lab allows for vital integration of technological and investment education.”

Coming off their success in the challenge, Detroit Mercy’s College of Business Administration has launched the Majestic (Mercy and Jesuit Student Investment Capital) Fund.

Using donations from benefactors, Detroit Mercy Finance students will have the opportunity to purchase actual financial assets (stocks, bonds, currencies, etc.) with real money. Each successive semester, students will manage the portfolio.

“The Majestic Fund will give our Finance students an exciting, hands-on learning experience as well as a new opportunity to interact with professionals from the business community,” Eisenhauer said.

Major donors to the Majestic Fund will serve on an Investment Advisory Council, meeting quarterly with student investors to hear about their research and results, and provide feedback to them.

“Students will receive a hands-on, experiential education in managing real investments,” Sabbaghi said. “They will develop their analytical and oral presentation skills, and will engage with practitioners from the business community.”

The initial benefactors include Ina Fernandez, Joe Berkowski, Ina Fernandez of Fern Capital, John Donnelly and Jim Penman of Donnelly Penman & Partners, among others.

For more information on Detroit Mercy’s College of Business Administration, please visit

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