April 13, 2018

Financial analysis skills earn semi-final showing in Americas research challenge

Haskayne undergrads compete against MBA students and those in specialized portfolio management training programs
This University of Calgary team were regional finalists in the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Research Challenge; from left: Matthew Nakaska, Daniel Johansson, faculty adviser Ari Pandes, and Grant Maheu.

From left: Matthew Nakaska, Daniel Johansson, faculty adviser Ari Pandes, and Grant Maheu.

Ari Pandes

Five months of hard work has paid off for a team of Bachelor of Commerce students. Grant Maheu (captain), Daniel Johansson and Matthew Nakaska won an all-expenses paid trip to Boston as a result of winning the regional competition for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge in February 2018. 

The competition for the Prairies was held in Calgary, where they competed against teams from University of Alberta, Mount Royal University, NAIT, University of Lethbridge, University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan, University of Winnipeg and another team from Haskayne. In Boston, they went up against 53 other teams, competing in the top 12 per cent in the Americas Regional Challenge.

“This competition provides unparalleled experience for our finance students — particularly the one-on-one time with an industry mentor,” says Ari Pandes, associate professor and area chair, finance, Haskayne School of Business and faculty adviser for the winning team. “These students went head-to-head with teams that had MBA students and students in specialized portfolio management training programs. These undergraduate students worked hard and really made the most of their time with their mentor.”

Hundreds of hours of prep for competition

Unlike many competitions where you are given a case to work on at the event, the CFA Institute Research Challenge has students doing all the work leading up to the competition. Hundreds of hours of preparation go into creating a winning report and presentation, starting in October where students first meet the company they will be providing a valuation for — this year it was Stella-Jones Inc.

The following weeks involve research, followup calls to the CEO, meetings with an industry mentor and coaching from faculty advisers. The written report is reviewed by CFA charter holders. Final scores are based on a combination of the report score and how students fare on a presentation that comes a few weeks after.

“I think my biggest learning experience was just getting a sense of how some things we learn in class can be applied to a real-world scenario, but others can't and how to teach yourself methods to supplement that missing knowledge,” says Grant Maheu, a fourth-year student in a combined Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Science degree majoring in finance and physics.

Real-world learning helps hone financial analysis skills

“The industry coach provided us with more real-world ideas than anything you learn in a classroom. It was fantastic to be able to bounce questions and ideas off someone who has industry experience in equity research. It's also great to make a connection with someone in industry who now has an idea of the quality of work you are capable of.”

Other competitions for finance students often centre on stock picking and stock predictions. The goal of the CFA Institute Research Challenge is to hone financial analysis skills, with the winning teams chosen for their depth of knowledge on the company rather than forecasts.

“Working with students who are inquisitive and curious about investing is rewarding, especially as in a short time period, students can show substantial progression in their investing capabilities,” says Steven Kim, associate portfolio manager, Canadian Equities, QV Investors Inc.