On Nov. 29, 2018, seven undergraduate economics students from the University of Wisconsin – Madison gathered in the Board Room at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors offices in Washington, D.C. to discuss current economic trends and decide monetary policy. Could these young people be your future star bankers? 


Above: The UW-Madison team with FRB Chairman Jerome H. Powell (center).

The team was competing as finalists in the 15th annual national College Fed Challenge as a representative of the Chicago Federal Reserve District. The College Fed Challenge is an academic competition for undergraduate college students inspired by the working of the Federal Open Market Committee. The competition is intended to encourage students to learn more about the U.S. macro economy, the Federal Reserve System, and the implementation of monetary policy. The Challenge also aims to promote interest in economics and finance as subjects for advanced study and as the basis for a career. (There is also a version of the competition for high school students.)

Drawing more students into banking as a career is an important goal for the industry. WBA has conducted several campus visits encouraging students to consider internships and careers in the Wisconsin banking industry, with recent stops at UW-La Crosse and UW-Stevens Point. The Fed Challenge competition is another avenue for demonstrating how exciting a career in finance and banking can be. "The College Fed Challenge, now in its 15th year, provides a forum for students to take their studies from the theoretical to the practical as they weigh a real-life set of facts and circumstances and make a judgment about the optimal path for monetary policy," said Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome H. Powell in a press release. "It is my hope that the experience of preparing for the competition might inspire these young adults to explore careers in economics or finance."

During the competition, each team of students is responsible for creating and delivering a 20-minute presentation in front of a panel of judges consisting of academics and professional economists, concluding with a monetary policy plan for the Federal Reserve Bank to implement. Following the presentation, the students participate in a 15-minute question and answer session with the judges during which the students defend their policy decisions. The UW-Madison students competed against—and bested—nearby colleges and universities in three rounds of local competition and two rounds of regional competition before advancing to the nation's capital as finalists, an unprecedented victory.

The judges at this year's national competition were: Ellen Meade, special adviser to the Board and Division of Monetary Affairs; Anna Paulson, senior vice president, financial markets finance at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; and Giorgio Topa, vice president, research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. These three judges evaluated each team on economic analysis, responses to judges' questions, teamwork, and presentation. 

The UW-Madison team earned Honorable Mentions along with teams from Princeton University and Virginia Commonwealth University, ceding higher honors only to the Yale University (champions) and Rutgers University (runners-up) teams. 

Congratulations to the UW-Madison student team members: Thomas Costello, Kara James, Tony Mattioli, Alex Orlov, Jake Steinberger, Zach Swaziek, and Patrick Sweeney. The team was supported by other university researchers and guided by faculty advisor Menzie Chinn, professor of public affairs and economics.