Virginia Tech’s Commodity Investing by Students achieved a 100 percent growth rate over the past year — in human capital.

Commodity Investing by Students, known as COINS, is one of the nation’s only student-led commodity investment groups. It invests more than $500,000 in three commodity sectors.

Growing out of an idea and gift from Bruce and Debbie Holland, COINS now has nearly 50 members and gives students the opportunity to learn and perform fundamental and technical analysis of commodity markets while managing an investment portfolio. Bruce is an alumnus (agricultural and applied economics ’70) and former Board of Visitors member.

“It’s been a tremendous experience to watch the group grow over the past couple of years and to see how dedicated and passionate the students are in following commodity markets,” said Olga Isengildina-Massa, COINS’s faculty advisor since August 2015 and an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

When the Hollands envisioned students gaining hands-on commodity trading experience at Virginia Tech, they reached out to the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and got the faculty and the Virginia Tech Foundation on board. In 2012, the Virginia Tech Foundation created a fund for students to manage, and COINS was born. The Hollands had no idea that just a few years later their own grandson, Logan Holland, would become a member of COINS and reap the benefits of their vision and the opportunity that they created at Virginia Tech.

After five years in operation, the group continues to boast 100 percent job placement with COINS alumni working in financial, agricultural, and consulting sectors for prominent firms like Smithfield Foods, Citibank, Merrill Lynch, Deloitte, and Monsanto.

“Because we trade 13 different commodities with very different production make-ups supplying very different markets, we get to leverage diverse and vast talents across campus,” said Blacksburg native Chris Eyestone, a senior majoring in agribusiness who served as COINS’ CEO for the 2016 year term.

These diverse markets have opened doors to students from various majors, including agricultural economics, finance, engineering, mathematics, biology, and more.

“We get to marry dreams for a lot of people – for people who want to work in commodities and trade on Wall Street or who want to grow commodities and live in the bread basket of America,” said Eyestone.

Many students join COINS with little to no experience in market analysis or trading, so for many it provides an opportunity to discover new passions and follow them. But to make that a reality among a large and diverse group of students, junior analysts rely heavily on senior leadership.

“Our aim is to provide COINS members with unique opportunities seldom experienced at the undergraduate level,” said Matthew Meadows, of Williamsburg, Virginia, a junior majoring in electrical engineering and the group’s CEO for the 2017 term. “We create an environment where students can learn how markets work and how organizations operate.”

Meadows is building off of the work Eyestone accomplished as COINS’ CEO.

Eyestone made huge strides in strengthening the group’s organizational structure, creating a strong web presence, fostering internal growth, and increasing external exposure.

Now, Meadows is honing in on member education and development with the help of Daniel Kelly, a junior from Williamsburg, Virginia, who is currently serving as the group’s chief financial officer, and others on COINS’ leadership board.

“You never stop learning,” said Addie Guthrie, a senior majoring in agribusiness and accounting and who is from Fort Valley, Virginia. “We teach the basics, but also stress learning through critique, analysis, discourse, and our seminars.”

It is this ideology that carries COINS members successfully into their future careers -whether that’s investment banking, production agriculture, or most anything in between. 

Written by Jillian Broadwell

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