Members of Community Investing by Students (COINS) attend an organization meeting. 

As Commodity Investing by Students (COINS), the nation’s only student-run commodity trading group, surpasses $1 million managed, members find themselves at the beginning of a long road of anticipated growth.

When COINS was created in 2012 with an initial investment of $250,000 from the Virginia Tech Foundation, they only had four students and two faculty advisors. Now, they have 30-40 student members and have surpassed $1 million in managed funds. COINS uses the money and invests it in commodities like metals, soybeans or bacon. The idea is to manage the money for others and increase the dollar amount. 

 “We have a huge recruitment class this year, and they are all fantastic,” said Colburn Hassman, a senior agribusiness major and current CEO of COINS.

Acting as the CEO of COINS while in school is no easy task, Hassman explains as he receives another call related to the organization.

“It’s constant –– this is a 24/7 job,” Hassman said. “Unfortunately, I do not have an assistant [laughs]. I do many administrative tasks and keep the group running, and while I do all of that I am responsible for setting the direction of the ship –– so it’s a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it to give back to the organization.”

While COINS has the same mission as SEED, a student-run financial portfolio, COINS is specific to commodity trading.

Commodity trading is similar to trading stocks in a company. However, instead of fluctuating shares in a business, commodity traders buy and sell physical assets such as gold, oil and pork bellies to name a few. Some commodity traders work as broker-dealers while some work for the companies that produce those commodities.

“Tons of schools have stock portfolios and tons of schools have bond portfolios,” Hassman said. “No school except for Virginia Tech has a commodity portfolio. We get to trade something that nobody else gets to trade.”

In terms of realism, COINS operates as close as possible to the real world.

“It’s extremely similar to how a real firm works. We have a CEO and CFO at the top, three division heads for each division, senior analysts and junior analysts,” Hassman said. As they obviously trade with real money, COINS follow the same guidelines as professionals would in the real world.

“We track a benchmark called the Bloomberg commodity benchmark, and we always trade relative to that –– we’re unlevered and have very strict trading rules,” Hassman said, “If the benchmark declines, there’s nothing we can do from also declining, but if the benchmark goes up, we also go up.”

COINS has come a long way since it started, and plans to continue its successful growth.

“It’s a real honor that the foundation trusts us with that money,” said Hassman. “We aim every day to grow that pile of money that we’ve been given, and ideally we could return that money someday and they could use it to support the university. We want to continue to do the right things and grow as an organization.”

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