The questions ranged from who conducted the first demonetisation in India to which bank is located on Diagon Alley. meets the four young sparks
Mr. Mohan has a credit card debt of ₹ 20,000 and he wants to go on a holiday. What should he do first? Pay off his debt Save for his holiday Take another loan for his holiday Cancel the holiday plan About 180 schoolchildren aged 13-17 answered such questions, which could stump a seasoned chartered accountant, as part of the annual National Finance Olympiad (NFO) organised by the Indian Institute of Financial Markets and economictimes.com. “Have you heard of the James Bond, Samurai Bond a nd Pa nda Bond? ” a sk s 16 -ye a r - old Rakshashri Natarajan. They are bonds issued in the financial market.
The James Bond, according to 14 -year- old Shivani Gowda, is the one that is redeemable after seven years, in honour of the fictional British spy’s code of 007.
Siddarth Vinay, 17, explains the Samurai and Panda bonds: “When non-Japanese companies issue bonds in Japan in the yen, they are samurai bonds. Panda is the exact same thing in China.”
Samyukta Kamath, 13, pipes in: “There is also the Dim Sum bond. It is the reverse of the Panda, where companies issue bonds in Chinese renminbi outside of China.”
These four students, from the National Academy For Learning (NAFL) in Bengaluru, have walked away with the ₹ 1 lakh prize for winning the NFO for 2016-17. Every moment of their journey to the final on February 2 is fresh in their minds.
“I had no idea about economics or finance. I just participated in the finance Olympiad like I do in all other competitions,” Samyukta confessed.
Shivani said: “Even the thought of finances and economics was daunting.”
Now, after the event, these 8th standard kids casually talk of different kinds of cheques, deposits and banking instruments, mention names of top finance-related books, their authors and why they are famous, name CEOs of multinational companies without batting an eyelid and speak with familiarity about Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel (former and current RBI governors).
“It’s so cool to talk about all this with our classmates,” Samyukta said. The contest was a humdinger, with juniors Shivani and Samyukta missing out on a question in the first round, leaving them at the bottom among the top three teams, including one from Delhi and one from Chandigarh.
“It spurred us to perform better as we had to catch up at any cost,” said Siddarth of class 12, who along with Rakshashri of class 11, contested the senior rounds. Rakshashri aced the buzzer round, which included a question on the traditional halwa ceremony before the presentation of the Union budget, while Siddarth picked up the slack by answering all questions on fictional billionaires such as Tony Stark (Iron Man), Uncle Scrooge (Donald Duck’s uncle), Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Richie Rich. They raced to the top of the table as Shivani and Samyukta cheered them from the audience.
The questions ranged from who did the first demonetisation in India (Shah Jahan) to the currency of Denmark (Danish krone). Students were shown clips of films such as ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and asked to identify what was taking place on the screen. “It was trading of penny stocks,” Siddarth said.
There were also questions that tested their understanding of financial concepts and awareness of current affairs and general knowledge. The USP of the team, however, turned out to be their knowledge of fiction. While Rakshashri answered a question on which company was featured in the novel Shoebag (Nike), the crucial question in the final buzzer round was: which bank is located on Diagon Alley? “We knew the answer, of course, but we had lost some points in the previous question. So we just bet 10 points on the answer. And we won,” said Shivani. Diagon Alley is where the wizard people’s bank, Gringotts, is located, in the Harry Potter books.
The grind that the students went through to prepare for the event had them study the differences between fiscal and revenue deficit, recognise company symbols from stock exchanges around the world, learn financial landmarks such as the first country to make coins (Babylon). They divided up the topics among themselves “as there was no other way we could have covered everything otherwise,” they chorused. Rakshashri, who has chosen economics as her elective subject, was naturally inclined to ab- sorb all of it. For the other three, though, it was an entirely new experience. Samyukta will now take economics as her elective and wants to use that in her father’s business when she grows up. Siddarth and Shivani are opting for computer science, “but the knowledge we have gained from doing this finance Olympiad will always be useful for us,” they said. Two things impressed the students: Warren Buffett’s quote: “Rule No. 1: Never lose money and Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No. 1” and the concept of spend what is left after saving, not save what’s left after spending.
“We will apply these in our lives,” all four youngsters said with firmness.
“It is very good training for the students and helps them in their lives. The process was also really interesting,” said NAFL economics faculty member K Padmavathi, who along with colleague Sridevi, mentored the students. This is the second year the NAFL has won the National Finance Olympiad, a competition that’s four years old.
School principal Indira Jayakrishnan is all praise for her students: “We try to offer a progressive learning environment where we encourage students to participate in a variety of competitions that test their mettle. We are delighted to win the NFO two years in a row!”
(L to R) Shivani Gowda, Samyukta Kamath, Rakshashri Natarajan (holding the trophy), Siddarth Vinay