|Nick Polychronopoulos, right, an investment adviser with CIBC Wood Gundy, works with Chinook High School student Eric Brown during a course on finance.
Herald photo by David Rossiter
Investing in the stock market can be risky business and that's something Nick Polychronopoulos learned first-hand.
An investment adviser with CIBC Wood Gundy, the former Hurricane has been sharing his hard-won knowledge with high school students through the Junior Achievement program for the past couple of years.
"When I was in school if I would have known the things that I know now when it came to investing I probably would have had a much better experience. I was investing in small capitalized stocks, doing very, very well for a two-year period when I was 22 years old. I turned about $15,000 into well over $450,000 and was investing in mostly mining stocks. Of course, the scam of Bre-X Minerals rolled around and completely wiped out the mining industry and at the same time wiping out my portfolio," he said. "I learned a very hard lesson and I believed that I paid for a Harvard education in a matter of three months when the mining industry crashed."
He had taken two years of university and was working at a job in the investment industry when the crash came. He resolved to go back to university and learn what he'd done wrong. He studied finance at the University of Lethbridge and took his industry licensing courses at the same time. Within two weeks of graduating he was working at Merrill Lynch, which was later taken over by CIBC Wood Gundy.
For the past few weeks he's been teaching JA's Investment Strategies Program to Grade 10 and 11 students in Darrell Laidlaw's finance course at Chinook High School.
Ashraf Aborawi, a Grade 10 student taking the class, said he learned that investing is a lot more complicated than he thought.
"It takes a lifetime pretty much of experience to achieve a skill like that, to kind of understand the market. It also teaches you about ethics and how you feel about yourself as a person when you're investing in a stock," he said. "When we were doing the stock market that was really exciting because the stock market, even if you do have a job, there's still kind of a secondary source of income.
"Me and my partner, we lost a couple of thousand on this simulation because of a risk with a specific stock - we thought it was going to keep going up but then it crashed. So we learned that waiting or getting too greedy also kind of kills you on the stock market."
In the course, students learn about the stock market, different types of securities and their advantages and disadvantages. Part of the course is a six-week simulated stock market competition scheduled to end Dec. 7. The CHS students are among 800 teams participating in Alberta and British Columbia.
"It's awesome that the kids get to hear it from somebody in the workforce and somebody that has a lot more knowledge than I do certainly in those areas," said Laidlaw, teacher and head of the CTS (career and technology studies) department at CHS. "(Students) are very intrigued by this stock market even though the election in the United States caused the market to really drop and they lost all kinds of money, they're still very excited about it. Any time they're at a computer they're looking up their portfolio and seeing what they can be doing."
Junior Achievement offers financial literacy programs to youth of all ages to prepare them for success in the global economy.