Students bankers take top prize

Marc Garneau's Junior Achievement team wows them in New York

They have no intention of pursuing careers in finance but after winning a banking competition in New York — where they beat nine other teams from Canada and the United States — these three East York students say they can appreciate the importance of money.

Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute students Michelle Brooks, Claire Browne and Patrick Lung came in first place at the Junior Achievement Banks in Action North American Competition in New York City, held June 27 – 30.

Junior Achievement is a program that teaches high school students the basics of banking, culminating in a computer simulation game that allows students to act as bank managers — essentially making decisions that will determine the bottom line of their bank.

Brooks, Browne and Lung got involved with the program through their grade 10 business class, where their teacher Dennie Stoeckl put them together in a group to practise the game. Their team did well, and decided to enter the Banks in Action competition.

After beating all the regional teams, the Marc Garneau students moved on to the final competition in New York City, where they were one of two Canadian teams to qualify.

Browne said the competition was stressful because the decision deadlines were tight.

“There are a whole bunch of rounds in one game that are called quarters,” she said. “Every five minutes, they advance to the next quarter, whether or not you made a decision about what your bank was going to do. There was this huge pressure to get your decision in on time before they said, ‘Your time is up.’ ”

The teams are assessed based on a point system called the bank performance index. The group with the highest index number wins the competition.

Their group had a final score of 107, beating the second place team by 25 points.

The team said they were surprised when they won — the first Canadian team to do so — but they think they were successful because they learned how to cooperate.

“We learned a lot about teamwork and how to make decisions together,” Brooks said. “Sometimes we compromised.”

For Lung, the key to their success was learning how to adjust their decisions based on what the other banks did.

“There’s no answer to winning,” he said. “It’s more about how you adapt to the other banks. Back when we were qualifying, we would just change a few things and everyone else would lose. Here, we actually had to adapt because the competition was a lot stronger.”

The students said the program provided a general overview of bank management but it also gave them insight into the cause of the recent global economic meltdown.

“It’s important to have rules and regulations that the government sets,” Brooks said. “Otherwise, other banks and everything goes down.”

This is what happened to banks in the United States, Browne added.

“(They) all failed because of huge competition from other banks,” she said. “And then other banks were all failing, so they pulled the other banks down with them.”

The program also strengthened their financial literacy, they said.

“Money makes the world go round,” Browne said. “If you don’t understand money, then you’re going to have a really hard time later in life. So giving youth like us an understanding of money early on helps them prepare later in life.”

About this article:

By: Amanda Kwan
Posted: Nov 1 2010 3:30 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto