Learning Day 2024 Delivers Knowledge, Networking and Gaming on Locust Walk

by Diana Drake

Financial education is the core of the Wharton Global High School Investment Competition. So, it stands to reason that the accompanying annual Learning Day, held this year on April 19, 2024, provided members of the 11 finalist teams (in Philadelphia to compete in the Global Finale on April 20) with opportunities to discover new financial insights and explore business more broadly on the campus of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

High school student Shreya M., who traveled from Jayshree Periwal International School in India to compete in the Global Finale with her team InvestIQ, valued having a day before the big competition finale to celebrate, network and explore. “The Learning Day was a wonderful experience for my team and me,” said Shreya.” We thoroughly enjoyed it and had so much fun getting to know the other teams, the faculty, students at Penn and Wharton.”

Shreya M., leader of India’s InvestIQ.

The Investment Competition Learning Day might well be described as a Wharton immersive experience. Following a classroom introduction from Wharton Global Youth Senior Executive Director Eli Lesser, the high school students learned about Finiverse, a new student loan app developed by Wharton’s Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance. Soon after, they spent a half hour in conversation with Erika James, Dean of Wharton.

Dean James spoke of the power of trust in business relationships, the strength of the AI revolution, and teamwork. “Over and over again you will be facing the team [dynamic],” she noted. “In college you will have team assignments and you’re going to have teams in the workplace. The challenge is how do you come to an agreement on your objectives and what you are trying to achieve. Establishing a set of common goals is really important.”

Wharton Dean, Erika James.

Inside ESG

A big hit with the Learning Day investors was a lecture by Dr. Serguei Netessine on Balancing ESG and Firm Performance. “It was incredible to see a leader in his field present about a subject that was integral to my investment strategy,” observed Alexander S., leader of the Wreckers Wealth Management team from Staples High School in Connecticut (which ultimately took second place in the competition).

Dr. Netessine, Wharton’s Dhirubhai Ambani professor of entrepreneurship and innovation and senior vice dean for innovation and global initiatives, presented his latest research on ESG and its role in companies’ financial performance.

In particular, his research considers information provided in companies’ earnings calls to look at the influence of material ESG (environmental, social and governance factors that matter most to the core business of the company), versus non-material ESG (those factors that, while good for the environment or otherwise, are not directly related to the company’s activities).

“If you look at how material ESG impacts a firm’s value, the [result] is positive,” noted Netessine, when talking about the research results. “So, if you talk during earnings calls about ESG and things that do matter (material), it does [have a positive impact] on the company. But if you talk about things that do not matter, the non-material, it decreases the firm value and the coefficient here is much, much larger…So when you talk about monkeys and penguins and [ESG that is not material to your business], financial analysts and financial managers see this and they don’t like it – they might even start selling your stock.”

Dr. Netessine presents his ESG research.


Wharton Global Youth’s Learning Day students rounded out their immersive experience by hearing about college from a group of Wharton undergrads, as well as a separate panel of four women professionals from New York City’s BlackRock, the global asset-management company, who discussed their roles as analysts, product developers and strategists in hopes of taking the fear out of finance. Students also enjoyed a full tour of Penn’s campus.

Puzzles and Pizza

The Learning Day would not have been complete without some serious networking opportunities and time for students to connect over their shared competition and high school experiences – even while they represented four different countries.

What better way to get to know each other than through food and gaming?

Mid-morning, the group headed off on a scavenger hunt, forming teams with new friends and getting to know each other over cryptic clues and snapped selfies at each deciphered location. Members of the winning team scored copies of Wharton professor Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take.

“The highlight of the Learning Day for me was the scavenger hunt,” said Shreya. “It acted as a great icebreaker and we really got to network with the other teams. Moreover, we got to see several aspects of Penn, such as Suite 3000 (home of Wharton Global Youth Program) and the Benjamin Franklin statue (Ben on the Bench), whilst trying to finish the hunt as soon as possible.”

Scavenger hunt: Found the stock exchange!

Reflecting during the end-of-day pizza party, many of the students – while still anxious for their Global Finale presentations the next day – were grateful for pepperoni slices and new friendships with investment-competition peers.

“The Learning Day was such a great opportunity to network with other students,” reflected Alex, after returning home. “Each one of them inspired me and was super kind and outgoing. In the competition day, this allowed us to be much more constructive and cheer each other on rather than have a tense competitive environment. After the announcement of the winners, I had a flood of congratulations from all the other teams, and they even reached out to me on social media. It was very heartwarming.”

Read about this year’s exciting Wharton High School Investment Competition Global Finale HERE.

Teams swap school mementos and get pumped up for the next day’s Global Finale.