Smithfield Foods, a leading producer of pork products, has initiated a challenge for Virginia Tech students involved in the student group Commodity Investing by Students, known as COINS, that would reward the top-performing analysts with a yearlong supply of Smithfield bacon.

Each spring, the student-led investing group awards select members for their outstanding performance and leadership over the year. But this year, in addition to a certificate and group accolades, the analysts who managed the top-performing commodity based on relative returns will receive bacon as an added bonus.

COINS, which is housed in the Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, manages investments of up to $1 million for the Virginia Tech Foundation and is open to all Virginia Tech majors.

The group’s Chief Financial Officer Matthew Grocock, a senior majoring in finance and business information technology, will identify the winner by evaluating each commodity’s performance compared to its benchmark. The winner will receive a $200 gift card to a local restaurant and coupons for a weekly one-pound supply of bacon to last a full year.

“Everyone in COINS wants to do well,” said Seth Long, a senior majoring in business information technology from Swoope, Virginia, who serves as the group’s chief executive officer. “We believe that our performance is an extension of our work and our research. But this competition provides a reward at the end of the year that’s fun. And it helps build our relationship with Smithfield.”

In addition to portfolio performance, COINS focuses on member education and development, as well as industry partnerships. Smithfield has supported the group by providing educational seminars and has hired top COINS graduates over the past several years, so this challenge and promised reward builds on an established and mutually beneficial relationship.

“We have a long relationship with Smithfield and they provide inspiration to our students,” said Associate Professor Olga Isengildina-Massa, who advises COINS. “This is just an example of that. And bacon for Smithfield is symbolic, so the student that wins will have a lot of bragging rights.”

To kick off the competition, Smithfield representatives recently came to campus with a load of Smithfield swag and product that was distributed to COINS members. The event included a presentation from both Smithfield and COINS, as well as a networking social.

Smithfield representatives included Virginia Tech alumnus and Senior Vice President of Business Development in Packaged Meats Keller Watts, along with recent Virginia Tech graduates Adeline Guthrie and Tyler Neff, who were involved in COINS as students and who offered advice to current COINS members about life after graduation.

Fabian Schleicher, a COINS corn analyst and senior majoring in agricultural and applied economics from Laa an der Thaya, Austria, walked away from the kickoff with a bacon holiday sweater, a T-shirt, and a box full of Smithfield meat.

Schleicher, a Smithfield bacon enthusiast, is already frequently sporting his new Smithfield swag and has his eye on the final prize.

“I’m super excited about Smithfield bacon,” Schleicher said. “I’m a corn analyst, and we’re currently in second place so we’re trying hard to win it. It pushes everyone to do more analysis because it’s a competition, and it’s pretty darn good bacon.”

The competition adds an incentive for COINS analysts to strive for the best possible portfolio performance, but it also enhances the group’s camaraderie as each analyst participates in friendly competition.

“It adds a fun component to our group,” said Colburn Hassman, a junior majoring in agricultural and applied economics from Kilmarnock, Virginia. “We joke about winning the bacon now during every trade.”

Smithfield representatives will return to campus in the spring to formally announce and celebrate the winning analyst. The visit will include a Smithfield seminar that will discuss the company’s economic outlook and highlight career opportunities for a variety of majors across campus.

Written by Jillian Broadwell