Future Financiers

School News
May 2, 2018- There are some savvy young investors among those who pour into Mike Imperi’s office for periodic meetings of their elective Investment and Finance Club. Like-minded students with a common interest in finance converge on the head of school’s office to discuss the performance of their portfolios and the underlying reasons for any changes, or lack thereof. Sometimes the conversation stays strictly focused on business models and the economy, but it gets really interesting when they dig into how underlying geo-political forces or social trends can affect a specific stock or market segment.

Another interesting aspect of the club- it’s entirely student initiated. “I taught an elective class for upper school students on financial literacy last year,” explained Head of School Mike Imperi, the club’s faculty advisor. “At the beginning of this year, a group of students asked if I would sponsor an investment club.” Imperi enthusiastically agreed.  

The club began with a challenge: each of the members were allotted a mock $250,000 to invest on Investopedia.com, which helps track performance. They could put that hypothetical capital into whatever they wanted with only one caveat— they had to invest ninety percent of their allotted money immediately. So, everyone picked stocks in which they saw potential, and each meeting starts with a look at who’s in the lead. “The competition adds an element of fun and the banter is great,” says Imperi. Some picked blue chips and others chose more obscure, emerging companies, but all take a bit of pride in their picks.

And the students agree. Jack Burch, an 11th grader in the VMS investment club, was one of the students who approached Imperi to sponsor the club in the first place. He said that comparing investments was one of his favorite aspects of their club’s meetings.

“I keep coming back because I enjoy seeing how our mock-investments perorm and learning more about the world of economics,” said Burch, whose own portfolio is holding strong. “I am currently three thousand dollars in the green, with Dollar General being my most profitable stock and Restaurant Brands International being my least successful.”

Some of the students have taken it a step further. George Savin, another junior in the club, has even started investing real money that he earned working during school breaks. “I started my first real portfolio last summer, and my one-year return as of now is 16.3%,” Savin said. “I definitely plan on building up my portfolio for years to come and I would love to work in the finance world once I graduate from college.”

Which is, perhaps, the investment club’s greatest merit. It provides inspiration and gives students the chance to learn about a topic not often discussed in high school classrooms. Some members of the club are delving into Imperi’s personal economics library, as well, reading books like Freakonomics in their spare time to further hone their financial edge.

“Now we’re talking about entrepreneurial endeavors,” said Imperi, describing some of the ways they will look at startup companies and the different types of investors. “It’s very freewheeling and fun, and it’s completely driven by the students.”

Imperi, who has taught everything from history to world cultures and economics in his twenty-five years as an educator, is happy to serve in the role of teacher, “As an administrator I don’t have as much time with the kids as I used to,” he said. It’s a chance for him, as the Head of School, to engage on a more personal level with some of the school’s students.

“I’d love to take credit for putting together some innovative, creative new curriculum,” said Imperi. “But really, it’s just me getting together with a bunch of talented, self-motivated students and sharing something about which I’m passionate.”

It is organic education at its best. The VMS finance club has flourished out of student driven interest in what is, normally, a notoriously complex and intimidating subject. This is the future of finance. And they are seizing a head start on their careers in the industry with a little help from their head of school.

This story was contributed to VMS News by freelance writer, Will Brendza, working in collaboration with the Vail Mountain School Advancement Office.