Trevecca students take top honors in investment challenge

From left to right are John Thomas, EVP and CFO, TVA; TNU students Jackson Poole and Luis Ortiz; Professor Jea Agee; Bill Johnson, President and CEO, TVA; and Tammy Wilson, VP, Treasurer, and Chief Risk Officer, TVA

More than 200 university students from across seven states recently gathered in Nashville to share investment strategies and celebrate the positive returns they delivered in TVA’s Investment Challenge Program (ICP) through market conditions in 2016.

“The markets gave investors some unique dynamics to navigate in 2016,” said TVA Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Risk Officer Tammy Wilson. “Our ICP students demonstrated sound financial discipline in their portfolio management to once again deliver solid results for TVA and the people of the Tennessee Valley.”

This year Trevecca Nazarene University earned top honors among all participating universities by generating a 18.73 percent return and beating the S&P 500.

“It is exciting to manage a live, real money portfolio,” says Seth Morgan, Trevecca Nazarene University senior and business administration major. “The ICP makes you work as a team, do your research, and test alternatives—all skills that should prove valuable to potential employers.”

In 1998, TVA started the ICP to provide university students with financial asset management experience by using real stock portfolios under the watchful eyes of faculty members and within TVA’s investment guidelines. Today, the program has grown to include teams from 25 universities across the Tennessee Valley.

“The ICP is a resource that allows me to vault classroom theory to a real-world application,” says Trevecca Nazarene University professor Dr. James Agee. “It [ICP] teaches students the cause and effect of their investing actions, and creates a real business environment where students have to design long-term investment strategies to generate an efficient return that also mitigates potential risks.”

In 2016, four teams outperformed the S&P 500, producing strong, double-digit returns.

  • Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, Tenn.—18.73%
  • East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tenn.—18.60%
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn.—16.65%
  • Christian Brothers University, Memphis, Tenn.—14.07%

Teams that outperform the S&P 500 in a calendar year earn performance awards for their respective universities. According to Wilson, the students have earned more than $1 million in performance-based awards for their schools since the program began. Universities use performance awards to improve their business programs through infrastructure enhancements, scholarships and research subscriptions.

“We started the program with $1.9 million,” says Wilson. “Through 2016, students have earned a 5.82% annualized return, ahead of the S&P 500 and on par with the returns produced by professional money managers.”

While the S&P 500 has returned 5.67 percent since the ICP was established, students have collectively outperformed that benchmark by 15 basis points over the same period.

According to Wilson, TVA and the Universities have partnered to create a strong, enduring program for the students. “For the last 18 years, we have been able to engage the best minds from top universities, and together we share, learn, and grow our financial acumen to benefit the students and the Tennessee Valley.”

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, TVA has a recipe for success. This year Bloomberg launched the Bloomberg Trading Challenge—a pilot program built directly off of the TVA ICP. Bloomberg’s pilot includes nearly 300 schools across the U.S., however, it lacks a key component of what has made TVA’s ICP a success—risking real dollars and cents.

Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695