Ready to launch: The Class of 2023
Alumni founders return with tips for successful careers in finance
Moments before he was set to present in front of three judges and an audience of faculty, students, staff and alumni, Daniel Ross ’19 was frantically reviewing his notes. His group was the last of 10 to present in the inaugural Peggotty Investment Club Stock Pitch Competition held April 23 at Connecticut College. And the other student presenters had made it look easy.
Weeks of research—digging through financial statements, reading news articles and calculating potential future earnings—were on the line. Ross made one small mistake—just as he had in rehearsal, he talked over another member of his group—but he recovered quickly.
By the end of the presentation, Ross and his teammates, Ben Sachs ’18 and Will Cannon ’19, had thoroughly impressed the judges with their pitch for investing club funds in the Chicago Board of Options Exchange.
The competition was part of the Peggotty Investment Club’s 15th anniversary celebration, which also included a panel discussion with four of Peggotty’s founding members. Each team was challenged to research a company, create a model, generate an investment thesis, and calculate a warranted potential price after considering three scenarios for the stock—a bear, base and bull case.
Scoring was based on quality of presentation, content, subject knowledge and whether or not the stock would be a good buy for the College’s Peggotty Investment Club, through which students manage an endowed scholarship fund. The prize: the top three stocks will be added to the club’s portfolio.
“The more you can go off note and be confident, the better,” said Dean of Academic Support Noel Garrett, who served as one of the judges. “The CBOE team was extremely poised and confident.”
It was a gamble to pitch an options exchange instead of a company that sells a good or service—Amazon, Tesla and Johnson & Johnson were among the companies pitched by other teams. But the team thought it would be a great addition to Peggotty’s $121,000 portfolio.
“CBOE was a pick that on its own was an okay long-term investment, but the judges were really looking for something that would complement the portfolio and hedge against global risk or an overvalued sector,” Ross said. “We picked a stock that if the market were to have a correction, we would excel.”
The gamble paid off—CBOE won first place in the competition.
“It’s an honor,” said Cannon. “The other members of our club are incredibly smart and all the groups did a fantastic job with their research.”
Dow Chemical, pitched by Sam Rodiger ’18, Matt Edwards ’18, Hugh MacGillivray ’18 and Hunter Rosenthall ’18; and Acxiom Corporation, pitched by Adam Goldberg ’18 and Max Chesky ’19, took second and third place, respectively. Jackie Murphy ’18, a member of the Amazon team, was also recognized as Presenter MVP.
Board of Trustee Chair Pamela D. Zilly ’75, a retired senior managing director at The Blackstone Group LP, opened the event with a brief history of the club. The idea came from a group of students interested in gaining hands-on experience in investment management, she said. At the same time, Jim Doran approached the College with an interest in giving students an opportunity to gain real-world experience in financial markets, while also paying tribute to his wife, Peggotty Namm Doran ’58. The result was the establishment of a $50,000 endowed scholarship fund to be managed entirely by members of the new Peggotty Investment Club. Over the years, other donors helped grow the fund.
“The club has seen significant growth since its humble beginnings,” Zilly said.
Open to students of all majors and class years, Peggotty now boasts 50 active members; another 30 regularly attend meetings. Since 2002, the value of the portfolio has grown 142 percent, and the club has generated more than $41,000 in scholarships for students majoring in government.
Associate Professor of Economics Purba Mukerji, who attended the stock pitch competition, said Peggotty has created quite a buzz on campus.
“When I sign up new economics majors, one of the first things they ask is how they can get involved,” she said. “This kind of real world experience is fantastic.”
Club President Andrew Stutzman ’17, a physics and economics double major and math and computer science double minor, said Peggotty allows students to apply what they’ve learned in class and gain valuable skills for successful careers in finance. Stutzman, who will start his career as an equity research associate at Eaton Vance after graduation, said students also benefit from the alumni network, which includes more than 300 former members and several hundred other alumni who regularly interact with the club.
Four of those alumni—founding Peggotty members Andrew Creedon ’03, Paul Goncalves Jr. ’03, Brett Roth ’03 and Wyley Scherr ’03—were on hand at the anniversary celebration to share their tips on breaking into the finance industry.
Scherr, now a principal at Brynwood Partners, a private equity investment firm, told students that the Peggotty club taught him to “speak the language” of finance, which is essential in interviews. But how you present yourself is just as important, he said.
“Be humble, be kind. Handshakes and tie knots—it’s the basic stuff that goes a million miles in the interview process. Reread your emails. Don’t be dumb. Take your time and think about what you are saying,” Scherr said.
Creedon, a fixed income research analyst at Sun Life Financial, added that it’s okay to admit you don’t know everything.
“‘I don’t know’ is a fine answer in an interview, as long as it is followed up with, ‘I’ll do some research and get back to you,’” he said.
Roth, who worked for 14 years in the insurance industry and is now starting his own financial tech company, told the students to learn from their mistakes, make the most of every opportunity and not expect an easy road.
“People are going to tell you ‘no.’ You have to be persistent, you have to be resilient and drive toward your goals.”