The Yale School of Management reigned triumphant in a CNBC game show last month after beating out seven teams from other business schools in a contest including trivia and simulated real world investing.
The correct identification of a geeky Julliard student who would later go on to head the Federal Reserve — Alan Greenspan — led the six-student team to victory in the show’s trivia segment and earned it a $10,000 advantage in the investment portfolio finals. The SOM team then played the market well enough in the game’s second segment to beat out The University of Texas’s McCombs School of Business and take home a $200,000 prize in the finance-focused cable channel’s first-ever Fast Money MBA Challenge.
Two days of trivia, which aired over four episodes in August, consisted of financial questions with occasional references to Paris Hilton and other popular culture institutions.
“There was everything from hard-core finance like, ‘On what day in what year was the lowest point in the New York Stock Exchange recorded?’ to more pop culture questions like, ‘Who shaved Vince McMahon’s head at Wrestlemania?” said Bob Doherty SOM ’08.
After defeating Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School of Business Administration in the opening round of trivia, Yale cruised through the semifinal match against UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. But Texas came out swinging in the final round, maintaining a significant lead over Yale until the final question, when the Bulldogs turned the tables on the Longhorns.
When Texas flubbed its own final question — “What company was established in 1850 in New York and was among the first and most successful express delivery businesses to arise during the westward expansion days of the United States?” (Answer: American Express) — Yale’s side of the studio erupted in cheers.
The SOM squad then turned its thoughts to the next part of the challenge – a six-week duel of five stock market portfolios selected by each team. Yale’s trivia victory gave it a 10% investment capital boost over Texas.
“There was a huge, huge difference between $100,000 and $110,000,” Koichi John Kurisu SOM ’08 said. “Texas had to go for more volatile picks, whereas we aimed for larger, more stable stocks.”
Krishnan Vishwanathan SOM ’08 described Yale’s $10,000 edge as a “monumental advantage” in the stock-picking round, and said future seasons of Fast Money MBA Challenge should revise these rules to level the playing field.
Members of the Yale team said the job of representing the School of Management on national television was daunting.
“The pressure was intense,” Vishwanathan said. “In the first round, I went up for a solo question and blanked out.”
The team members recalled the experience fondly, citing the knowledge they gained and the friendships they formed with each other.
“This was one of the greatest experiences in my life so far,” Jeffrey Levi SOM ’08 said. “It was the first time I was ever on camera, and I developed amazing relationships.”
SOM Dean Joel Podolny congratulated the team in an e-mail for representing the school well and giving the SOM community something “to cheer about” over the summer.
The team also included alternates Lisa Howie SOM ’08 and Mike McLaughlin SOM ’08.