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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Stock in trade

Four fraternity brothers turn virtual money into real scholarships

Laptops on. Twenty-four-hour news channel tuned. Financial newspapers and magazines bookmarked.

A study room in Pi Lambda Phi’s fraternity house turned into a makeshift trading floor recently when four fraternity brothers teamed to win the TD Ameritrade thinkorswim Challenge.

Each of the Carolina students – senior Alexander Bryan, sophomore Nyatefe Mortoo, sophomore Dhru Patel and senior Grahme Taylor — won $3,000 in a TD Ameritrade brokerage account and some new trading technology. As part of the victory, Carolina was awarded $30,000, which will be used for need-based and merit-based scholarships.

“The fact that these funds will make life better for students, that just means the world to me,” said Steve Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions.

 

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The 2016 winners of TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim Challenge are, from left, Grahme Taylor, Nyatefe Mortoo, Alex Bryan and Dhru Patel. Also pictured are Steve Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions and Mary Ryan of TD Ameritrade.

Brothers in trade

The student quartet formed the team “All for Tony, Tony for All” (dedicated to their fraternity house’s chef) in October, after Mortoo spotted a flier in his email from the UNC Finance Society. It outlined the specifics of the competition: teams of college students nationwide were invited to use virtual money during a four-week trading competition to determine who could build the biggest portfolio. Mortoo immediately thought of his three brothers from Pi Lambda Phi.

“We all love trading. We just had never done it together,” Taylor said.

Over four weeks, the fraternity brothers monitored the financial markets and the news. They coordinated study and test schedules to make sure there was always one person with an eye on the portfolio looking for the best trades possible.

“I was kind of intimidated, but over the course of the month when our returns were really consistent, it became obvious that we weren’t just doing well because of luck,” Mortoo said. “I became more and more confident as the competition went on.”

Go for gold

The experience paid off Nov. 5 when the competition was nearing its end — and the four friends gathered for one final move.

“After a discussion, we decided: ‘Well, we have one trade left. Let’s go for gold,’” explained Bryan.

They made the trade.

“We ended up just crowding around watching the seconds tick down—with about half the fraternity behind us, just watching the screen,” said Taylor.

The stock jumped.

Once they received the official winning telephone call, they celebrated – not just for themselves, but for Carolina.

As part of the $20 million Give for Good match challenge that Carolina accepted in October, an anonymous donor will match the $30,000 in winning funds because those funds have been earmarked to support need- and merit-based scholarships.

“So automatically, this $30,000 becomes $60,000 for the Carolina Covenant and Morehead-Cain scholarships,” Farmer said.

Meanwhile, the fraternity brothers also have a long-term plan in place for their winnings.

“We’re not going to spend a penny of it,” said Taylor. “We’re just going to pool it and keep on trading.”