PULLMAN, Wash. — Everybody won — for the second year in a row — when the Montana-based D.A. Davidson & Co. brokerage firm gave Washington State University finance students $50,000 to create an investment portfolio and they realized a 22 percent profit on their high-tech stock suite at the end of their investing year.
Profits were split according to agreement between Davidson and the students’ academic home in the Department of Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate in the WSU College of Business and Economics. The students won the satisfaction of knowing they were “The Best” among a select group of student investors at seven Northwest universities that participate in Davidson’s Student Investment Program. Assistant professor Rick Sias and Davidson broker Merilee Frets of Spokane had the honor of guiding their students to another winning year.
Last year, the same Davidson program saw another set of WSU students also take first place when they reaped a 71 percent return on their securities. “That increase remains a record in our 12-year-old program,” says Ian Davidson, CEO of the largest full-service investment firm headquartered west of the Mississippi in Great Falls, Mont. “The WSU business school teams have been leaders. Students must learn hands-on investing in the real world so we give them real money, they pay real commissions, and if they choose well, they are rewarded with real dollars.”
Though WSU finance students have only participated in the program three years, their market strategies and savvy have brought a total of $21,774 into the department. “The quality of their performance is no accident,” says Frets, a WSU alumna. “They are prepared. They study companies based on financial soundness and industry sector, use a small team approach to evaluate prospects, and make avid use of the quality computer technology — both database and on-line — available to them in the WSU business college. They may ask for my opinion, but they make their own decisions.”
Sias’ research specializes in institutional investor behavior. He has received much national industry recognition and awards for a paper on investor herding. He says these students in his Portfolio Theory and Management class are his favorites. “It’s an elective, so I think I get the most eager students. And, naturally, the prospect of handling a $50,000 portfolio is alluring.”
Other universities participating in the Davidson Student Investment Program include the University of Idaho (which has taken second place the past two years to WSU), Boise State, Montana State at both Bozeman and Billings, the University of Montana, and Carroll College. Gonzaga University joins the group this year as the newest participant.

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