After two months of stock picking, the battle for the £5,000 grand prize went down to the final hours of the final day.
There were four players in the running, all having made close to £20,000 from their initial £100,000 stake. But there could only be one winner.
Colin Riley finished the game with £120,006, pipping 6,000 other players to the jackpot and scooping last week’s £1,000 weekly prize in the process.
We caught up with Mr Riley and some of the game’s other top players who ran him close on the final day.
‘I stopped looking after week six because I was doing so poorly’
Fund: Colin Riley
Final value: £120,006
Winning the competition came as a complete shock to Colin Riley, 51, from Stratford. After a poor start to the game, he stopped following his fund, only to check his progress on the final day to find that he was leading the field.
“I thought I was well out of it with a couple of weeks left to play so I stopped checking. I logged on at the very end and saw that it was neck and neck but I was convinced that I would lose at the very end. When I got the email saying I had won I thought it was a scam,” he said.
Mr Riley decided on his strategy at the beginning of the game and did not tinker with it. He owned five healthcare companies throughout: UDG Healthcare, PureTech Health, Indivior, Vectura Group and Mediclinic International.
“I went for healthcare companies in the hope there would be some consolidation in the industry or a boost linked to coronavirus. With so many small companies I thought there could be some takeovers. I was right and that’s why my fund shot up in the final weeks,” he said.
The turning point came after bids were announced for Vectura Group and UDG Healthcare, sending their shares 33pc and 20pc higher. Because Mr Riley had a concentrated portfolio, this propelled his fund from £107,400 to £118,300, a 10pc return, in just one day in the final week.
“95pc of my money went into four stocks to have the most concentrated portfolio possible. There are no prizes for second place so you have to go all in,” he said.
Mr Riley, who worked for an energy company for 20 years before taking early retirement, said he would invest his £5,000 in the stock market and attempt to “day trade” it to increase its value
“I’m going to have some fun with it and see what I can make. I am looking at buying companies which are linked to cryptocurrency,” he said. However, his main portfolio is conservatively managed, split between a tracker funds and a few stocks.
“I’m primarily invested in passive funds, such as UK and global stock trackers, but have also bought shares in Goldman Sachs and Berkshire Hathaway,” he said.
‘I only started investing last year’
Fund: Pazzy Fund
Final value: £118,531
It was almost third time lucky for Priyesh Parekh, a 32-year-old IT consultant and part-time yoga teacher from Milton Keynes.
He finished third after leading for much of the game, which was a huge improvement on his performance in the first two seasons of the game, where he failed to make an impact.
“I was trading every day by looking for big winners from pre-market trading updates. I wanted to find companies that would get a boost after reporting positive results when markets opened,” he said.
He found big winners this way, such as engineering firm IMI, which rose 11pc in one day, and construction group Morgan Sindall, which rose 19pc.
“I got to grips with how trading updates would be interpreted by markets, but made lots of mistakes as well. I bought Barclays after it announced profits had doubled but missed the fact that it had put more money aside for bad loans, which caused shares to fall,” he said.
One of the turning points for Mr Parekh was backing mining companies as commodities prices rose to record highs.
“Ferrexpo was the big winner for me. I was watching Bloomberg TV in the morning to see where prices were moving and made a lot of money. I love how commodities are linked to macroeconomic trends, such as economic growth in China,” he said.
Mr Parekh only started invested for real last year. His first win came from buying shares in Kingfisher, which owns the B&Q and Screwfix chains and has been boosted by the DIY boom in lockdown. He then invested in American technology stocks, such as e-commerce group Shopify.
‘I’m retraining to be stock analyst in my free time’
Fund: The dog and the wolf
Final value: £118,523
Duane Scott, 35, from Leeds, is retraining to be a stock market analyst in his own time and used the game to practice. Finishing sixth in the last game and fourth in this one, his hard work is clearly paying off.
“I have a natural interest in the stock market and love reading about it. I knew that commodities were on the rise given the sharp increases in the prices of iron ore and lumber, so I wanted to own shares in that area,” he said.
A conveyancer by trade, Mr Scott loaded his fund with mining companies, including Ferrexpo, Anglo American and BHP.
However, he was quick to see that prices had peaked and quickly shifted his fund into healthcare stocks.
“Everyone had the same stocks and I knew I had to do something different. Vectura Group won a lawsuit with GlaxoSmithKline over a patent so I bought it. Medical technology was the winning theme at the end of the game,” he said.
However, he dropped the ball in the final week of the game.
“I gambled that Cineworld shares would be part of a ‘short squeeze’ against hedge funds that were betting against American cinema chain AMC Entertainment and games retailer GameStop, but it never happened. The pressure got to me and I invested in something I didn’t know enough about,” Mr Scott said.
In real life, Mr Scott is also an active trader. “I made money on cryptocurrencies but now I see this as too much of a gamble and buy shares instead.