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The Wolf of High Street

Story by Adam Lee, Images by Bob Craig

For marketing student Zach Pezzner, it all began in his junior year of high school when he decided to take a sports management class. As part of an assignment for class, Pezzner had to play around with a stock simulator, a program that provides players with the opportunity to practice trading stocks. By mirroring current stock market trends, it produces real results while removing any risk from the players. Although Pezzner was unaware at the time, this minor class activity would spark an insatiable desire to explore the world of stocks.

After completing the assignment, Pezzner decided he wanted to learn more about the stock market. He began by surfing Google and YouTube for articles and videos that would introduce him to the functions of the stock market. He read numerous books, and followed hedge fund managers, namely Carl Icahn. He approached his father and grandfather, who were both patent attorneys, with questions involving the benefits and ramifications a patent would have on a company. Finally, he spent about nine months practicing with stock simulators and employing newfound strategies.

Pezzner sensed that he had the potential to competently invest, and the urge to attempt to do so was impossible to suppress. He initially focused on the healthcare and technology aspects of the stock market. As profits began to creep to the surface, Pezzner felt more comfortable. Through TD Ameritrade, he opened a brokerage, with which stock exchanges could be executed more efficiently. This move opened up the floodgates, and Pezzner committed himself to facing the challenges of investing.

The majority of Pezzner’s profits have come from beating the stock market, or earning an investment return that exceeds that of the elected benchmark. The path to these rewards, however, was daunting. Pezzner would spend hours researching the company and past stock movements before making a prediction. Upon taking this pivotal step, Pezzner would pester himself with any doubts he could come up with. Rather than succumbing to self-confidence, he forced himself to give all sides their deserved attention.

With every inch of profit, Pezzner’s passion for investing grew. Soon enough, he was ready to tread through the unchartered waters of day trading. Day trading requires that participants exchange stock only throughout a specified window of time, lasting no longer than a day. Only accounts that have garnered over $25,000 can enter the rigorous day trading market. In order to meet the demands of day trading, Pezzner had to choose his academic schedule carefully. He made a conscious effort to limit breaks between classes, so that enough space in his day could be cleared for day trading without interruption. Even with an accommodating schedule, Pezzner found himself waking up at 5 a.m. “I knew that other people wouldn’t be getting up that early,” he says. “I felt that the only way to be successful was to put in as much effort as possible. I declined an internship this past summer in order to dedicate myself to day trading.”

Pezzner calculated that 60% of his summer profits came from earnings, 30% from day trading, and 10% from longs, or investments fueled by expectations of gradually inflating asset values. During that summer, Pezzner discovered the tactic of selling a stock after beating the market. Since most people will rush toward that stock, its value will depreciate. “Stock could start the day up 25%, but be up only 12% by the day’s end.” Pezzner also found that discussions with his grandmother helped to enhance his understanding of the day trading market. His grandmother believed that a more conservative approach was necessary to investing; she played a vital role in curtailing Pezzner’s aggressive style.

To this day, Pezzner is hunting for new methods to forecast fluctuations in stock value. “A great way I’ve found to expand my skills is to teach others what I have learned from my experiences. I lead a stock group in my fraternity to help promote financial proficiency and talk about the market. I am also an associate for Buckeye Capital Investors, a group that exposes Fisher students to investment opportunities.” By debating with his peers, Pezzner is able uncover new ways of grappling with the market. Rather than viewing his accomplishments as a means to celebrate, Pezzner recognizes that what he has earned can open more doors. “There is always more to learn about the stock market. The skills cannot be perfected.”

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