A Long Islander and his UConn team took risks, won investment contest

A Dix Hills graduate student and his team at the University of Connecticut turned risk into reward to defeat almost 500 rivals and win the 2021 Bloomberg Global Trading Challenge.

Varun Katari, a 22-year-old Long island native and graduate of Half Hollow Hills High School West, teamed with four other business graduate students in UConn’s financial-risk management program to edge out a team from runner-up Prince Sultan University in Saudi Arabia by about $100,000.

The contest pitted teams of three to five students worldwide led by a faculty adviser. Each team was staked with $1 million in virtual dollars. The goal: select a basket of individual stocks whose price gains rocketed past those of the competition.

By the end of the month-and-a-half contest, the winning team had turned their stake into $1.5 million, said Michel Rakotomavo, a UConn finance professor and their faculty adviser.

Katari said his team spent hours poring over Bloomberg terminals, primarily using technical analysis to zero in on stocks whose price appeared to have upside momentum.

Their picks included volatile stocks like Silvergate Capital Corp., which provides services to holders of cryptocurrency, as well as electric-vehicle makers Tesla Inc. and Lucid Group Inc.

“You’ve just got to take the risk,” said Katari, who said that investors should leave emotion out of their decisions.

His advice for dealing with losing investment positions in non-retirement accounts: “Write it off on your taxes,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep moving forward.”

Katari teamed with fellow graduate students Sayem Lincoln of Bangladesh; Jayabhushan Nallakannu of India, and Justin Keish and Matt Ciaburro, both of Connecticut.

As the winning team, the students received $3,000 to direct to a charity. They chose the Humane Society.

Rakotomavo and the students also each won an iPad Pro.

Katari said he plans to embark on a career in finance — perhaps at a major Wall Street investment bank — once he finishes his studies in the graduate program this summer.

“That’s the dream,” he said.

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