SFA students Blake Moore of Lufkin, Steven Hawkins of Longview, Neel Warren of Palestine and Ryan Swor of Carrollton.

Four Stephen F. Austin State University students represented the Mast Student Investment Roundtable at an international investment symposium and won first place in the symposium's investment growth category. Pictured are, from left, Blake Moore of Lufkin, Steven Hawkins of Longview, Neel Warren of Palestine and Ryan Swor of Carrollton.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Students participating in Stephen F. Austin State University's Mast Student Investment Roundtable are proving they have what it takes to be top-notch financial portfolio managers.

The group, comprising 15 SFA students who have demonstrated exemplary performance in specific investment courses, won first place in the competition's growth category at the ENGAGE International Investment Education Symposium held in March.

ENGAGE is one of the largest student investment conferences in the U.S. The annual event was held this year at Wayne State University in Detroit to provide students with the opportunity to participate in discussions with today's leading investment professionals in preparation for their role as tomorrow's financial leaders.

Student teams from 57 universities across the U.S. and Canada participated in this year's event. Universities with student-managed portfolios were invited to compete based on their financial performance in the areas of growth, value, blend/core and asset allocation styles of management. Twelve-month risk-adjusted returns from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2014, were used to identify the top portfolio team in each category.

"The growth category focused on universities with student teams that only invest in stocks," said Dr. Kyle Jones, SFA associate professor of finance, who accompanied the team to the competition. "SFA's students had a return rate of approximately 19 percent in 2014. That's incredibly impressive, especially when you consider that the Standard and Poor's 500 index return rate averaged markedly less at about 13 percent."

Students representing the Mast Student Investment Roundtable included Neel Warren, a senior finance major from Palestine; Steven Hawkins, a senior economics and finance major from Longview; Blake Moore, a senior finance major from Lufkin; and Ryan Swor, a senior finance major from Carrollton, who later discussed the team's win on CNBC.

During the nationally televised interview with a panel of financial experts, Swor provided details about the stocks the team selected. "Gilead is a strong biotechnology company," Swor said. "It recently developed a breakthrough hepatitis C treatment drug. We also like Home Depot. More and more people today are opting to make improvements to their homes rather than purchase or build new ones, so that stock is performing well."

The children of A.T. and Patricia Mast, honoring the Mast family's longtime support of the university, established the Mast Student Investment Roundtable in 2012. The roundtable's members invest more than $500,000 of real money, which includes funds from the SFA Alumni Foundation and the SFASU Foundation.

"The faculty members in SFA's finance department provide our students with a thorough education in financial management, teaching them to analyze stocks and then encouraging them to use that knowledge to make sound investment decisions," Jones said. "The opportunity provided by the Mast Student Investment Roundtable is a key element in helping our students gain the skills they need to compete and win on the national level."

For more information about the investment group, visit www.sfasu.edu/cob/roundtable.asp.