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Delbarton Investment Club Launches (and Thrive) in Unprecedented Economic Climate

Last fall, with encouragement from Fr. Michael and guidance from the Delbarton Lay Board of Trustees Investment Committee, Delbarton launched its first Investment Club, a group charged with investing seed money from the Delbarton endowment fund. What an unprecedented year to launch an Investment Club!

The primary objective of the Club was to educate students in the basics of investing and market concepts. The Investment Club is yet another unique Delbarton tool that includes the Ryan Crane Business Center with its Bloomberg terminals, and the Delbarton Incubator that helps inspires young entrepreneurs and DelEX, the externship program for rising seniors.   Fr. Michael says, "The Investment Club's management of a small portion of the Delbarton School endowment is the kind of experiential learning that we regularly encourage here at Delbarton.”  Beyond the obvious educational value, this student-run organization hopes to donate profits to a Delbarton scholarship, enabling a young man to attend the School.

So, how did the new Club do during an investment period that most would agree is the most challenging in the nation’s economic history? In its first year, the Club attracted over 40 active members from all grade levels, communicating with its membership via the Club’s Schoology page.  Voting members included faculty moderator Mr. Tom Brady, a liaison from the school’s Investment Committee, Mr. Rob Failla ‘89, P’20, P’22 for the first half of the year, and Mr. Michael Szymanski P’18, P’21 for the second half.  Two student leaders, Theo Coughlin ‘20 and Pierce Lutz ‘20, and Tyler Mayes ‘20, Mac Clark ‘20, Jason Strollo ‘20, Christian Lalin ‘21 and Garrett Larson ’21 also had voting rights. Below, students celebrate making the Club's first official trade. 

Funded with an initial $25,000 investment -- $20,000 from the Delbarton School Endowment Fund and $5,000 from the Business and Economics Club -- the Club modelled its initial portfolio after the Delbarton Investment Committee asset allocation. The first investments took place in early August. The Club directs Vanguard Advisors, Inc. to invest and reinvest assets, and Vanguard shares club performance separately as part of its regular reporting to the Investment Committee. In early December, The Delbarton Business and Economics Club contributed an additional $2,000 in funds.

The Club hosted meetings on the first Friday of every month and had mid-cycle meetings in response to shifting market conditions.  The Covid-19 pandemic impacted business as usual, but despite the school closure and abrupt shift to Virtual Delbarton distance learning after spring break, Investment Club trading, Schoology page updates and Zoom meetings continued to take place as global markets embarked on a dizzying roller coaster ride.

Recently, the Investment Club issued this comprehensive annual report that tracked the period from May 1, 2019 through April 30, 2020 and included market recaps, trades, graphs, analysis and even a Political Risk Subcommittee addendum on the 2020 US Presidential Election that analyzed all Democrat candidates, then narrowed its focus to the presumptive party choice, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Prior to the global pandemic, the Investment Club portfolio outperformed all indexes until COVID-19 began to impact the markets, and bond values spiked. Maintaining a portfolio of roughly 75% stocks and 25% bonds throughout the year, the Club outperformed VBINX, a portfolio of roughly 60% stocks and 40% bonds. Overall, Investment Club performance remained relatively flat from its inception to date and, as the Club’s Annual Report put it, “It has been a historic 9 months, and to come out of it relatively unharmed is clearly a positive result.” Amen, gentlemen.  

Club leader Pierce Lutz says, “This inaugural year of the Investment Club has been a great learning experience for all of us. Being trusted to manage real money is a special opportunity as a club. Having a strong basis of knowledge of investing is an essential life skill and it is never too early to learn, and there is no better way to learn than from real, hands-on work. Living through coronavirus and its impact on the financial markets, let alone the entire world, will certainly be something we will never forget.”

Theo Coughlin adds, "Leading the Investment Club was one of the most rewarding parts of my senior year.  Delbarton's Investment Club gives students of all grades early exposure to managing money in a formal setting that may guide their personal or professional goals later in life.  I am excited to see the future success of the club and the opportunities it will provide for students to explore financial markets, a truly unique opportunity.

Fr. Michael was pleased with Investment Club results during its inaugural year. He commends Mr. Brady, Club members and their advisors on their hard work and says, “The students' close guidance from Mr. Tom Brady, their club Moderator, is another example of what makes Delbarton special: strong mentoring relationships between our faculty and our students."