For London-based wealth manager Investec Wealth and Investment, social responsibility and support for the local community are of the highest priorities. Since 2015, the company has worked in partnership with Arrival Education to teach high school students about the ins and outs of portfolio management, global markets, and long-term investing. One of its popular programs, Invest4Success, helps teams of less advantaged 17-year-olds from London and Liverpool construct their portfolios with five individual companies, monitor their performance, and trade positions. They operate under the guidance of 20 Investec employees who volunteer their time as investment managers to advise the students. At the end of six months, those students who have achieved the highest notional portfolio value are declared the winners. Prizes are also awarded for the best team spirit and best final presentation.
“Investec has always had an interest in social mobility, in helping people make the best of themselves, helping them improve, rewarding their hard work, and endeavors,” says one Investec executive.
For the program’s first four years, Investec and its students relied on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, email, and instant messaging tools to aggregate data, update holdings information, and communicate about research and trades. Each Friday, investment managers spent hours at the close of business running numbers and updating portfolios manually.
With a desire to scale the Invest4Success program to include more students and provide them with more real-time data and direct access to their investment managers, program leaders reached out to FactSet for support.
“We reached a limit in terms of the time we could spend managing these portfolios. Every time we brought a new team on, that was another five stocks to monitor and to communicate about,” says the program manager. “If we could get a system built to support this initiative, we could, in theory at least, open up to any number of teams. FactSet was the first company we reached out to, since you power our investment management.”
Investec’s first requirement was around the breadth of data.
“We needed a global data provider. We could have perhaps done something via the London Stock Exchange where we could have got prices on UK stocks, but that wouldn’t have helped us if the students wanted to buy something on the Nasdaq, or China, or something that isn’t trading in the UK,” says the program leader.
In addition to global data, Investec sought a partner who could offer the analytics the students required and who could customize the data being provided.
“We were looking for total return prices. In the past, we had to figure out when a dividend was paid and add that dividend manually back onto the share price. FactSet’s ability to provide a total return number was very important. We had several other nuanced requirements and worked alongside FactSet to make sure we could get exactly the style of data we needed.”
Investec’s second requirement revolved around data delivery. Once it became clear that FactSet could provide the breadth and scope of data required, Investec turned its attention to how it could most efficiently gather information and share it directly with the students.
“We struggled to keep a record of things in Excel spreadsheets and various other low-tech solutions. We needed a portal where the students could view their portfolios and trade their shares,” says Investec. “We wanted a way to send them messages and allow them to communicate amongst themselves and with their investment advisers.”
Together, FactSet and Investec designed a portal leveraging FactSet’s API connections for model portfolios and portfolio analysis. These APIs fetched security returns that allow students to determine how their portfolios have performed, request trades, and engage with their investment advisors. The APIs rely on FactSet’s symbols and Portfolio Analytics engine to retrieve returns, model portfolios, and load portfolios back into FactSet for analysis. The portal was built and ready for testing in under two weeks.
With the API in place and global data delivered directly to students in an easy-to-access portal, Investec has seen a reduction in the time it must spend organizing information for the students.
“We spent hours on Friday afternoons aggregating data and more on Monday morning trying to get messages out to each team so they could input traders or make changes to their portfolios,” says Investec. “This API integration has freed up a great deal of the time for us.”
The Invest4Success students are more highly engaged than ever.
“This portal has increased the student’s engagement and enjoyment. It’s enhanced their gameplay tremendously,” says Investec. “They can plot and chart how they’ve done versus their competitors, and we are able to see who is logging in, who is accessing traders, and whether all members of the team are contributing or just a few.”
The game continues to improve the lives and career aspirations of the students, which was its intended goal.
“The students are making different educational choices in the end, deciding to pick a university or to continue in education. These students might live in close proximity to the City, the financial district of London, but before completing the program would never dream of applying for a job there. They didn’t see that as an option,” says Investec. “Now they’ve visited our offices, interacted with the markets, developed an understanding of finance, and have different aspirations for themselves.”
With the reduced time investment and greater ability to scale, Investec intends to expand its reach in the coming years.
“We can potentially reach more students, in more cities with this portal. We can keep more students engaged and enthusiastic throughout the program, which plays into the value that Investec upholds—helping people progress and make the best of their lives.”
Using FactSet global data and powerful APIs, Investec, in conjunction with Arrival Education, has been able to scale its socially conscious Invest4Success program by reducing the labor-intensive, manual processes previously associated with game management. This has allowed participating students to focus on managing their investment portfolios and learning new skills while making contacts for their future.