The Merrick School of Business welcomed spring with an important victory: A group of highly motivated and successful students competed in the opening round of the CFA Institute Investment Research Challenge, besting their fellow students from several universities across Maryland and in Washington, D.C., in a Feb. 21 contest to create and present the most effective equity research report and presentation about an actual publicly-traded company. The group, consisting of five students and coached by Steve Isberg, associate professor of finance for the Merrick School of Business, then traveled to Denver for the “Americas” regional round on March 18-19. Although they offered a solid presentation at that round of the competition, they did not advance.
Regardless, the entire school celebrated the February win – a first for the school.
The team members and their academic programs included:
- Douglas "D.J." Palmer, M.B.A. program
- Rob Carter, M.S. program in Accounting and Business Advisory Services
- Charles Atwood, M.B.A. program
- Andrew Buryak, business honors, finance major
- Mihaela Ciulianu, business honors, finance major
Read about the UB team in The Baltimore Sun.
"We are enormously proud of these finance students for doing so well in the competition, especially considering it was the University's first time to participate," said Frank Navratil, interim dean of the Merrick School of Business. "They stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. This is great for the school and all of UB—and it sends a message to our colleagues in the finance world: Keep an eye on these UB students, because they’re really good."
The CFA Institute Research Challenge offers students the unique opportunity to develop and present an industry-standard report and compete with it against teams from across the globe. Students learn from leading industry experts, as well as mentors and peers from top business schools. According to the CFA Institute, this annual educational initiative is designed to promote best practices in equity research among the next generation of analysts through hands-on mentoring and intensive training in company analysis and presentation skills. The global competition, which continues until April, is expected to attract 3,500 students and 775 universities in 54 countries.
This year's result marked UB’s debut in the competition. Other area schools involved in the first round included Towson University, The Johns Hopkins University, Loyola University, the University of Maryland, College Park, American University and Georgetown University. For the next round, UB competed against business schools from throughout the Americas.
"It is very gratifying to me as a teacher to see these students successfully apply what they learn in class to a live, competitive situation involving the real-time case of an important investment opportunity," said Isberg, the team's faculty adviser. "I was awestruck by their determination and persistence as they strove to complete an outstanding report and presentation. They maintained the UB spirit of going above and beyond in everything we do."
According to the CFA Institute, the annual Research Challenge involves the following:
- Analysis of a publicly-traded company: Teams research a publicly traded company. The company's management presents information to the student teams and is available to answer student questions.
- Mentoring by a professional research analyst: Each team works with a CFA charterholder who mentors the team during the research process and reviews and critiques its report.
- Writing a research report: Each team produces an Initiation of Coverage report on its chosen company. The report is reviewed and scored by a group of judges.
- Presentation of research to a panel of experts: The teams' final presentations are locally evaluated by panels of experts from top financial institutions. Panelists include heads of research, portfolio managers, and chief investment officers from the world's top firms. The team with the highest combined written report and presentation score is the winner and advances to the regional level of the Research Challenge.
- Advancement to the CFA Institute Research Challenge Global Finale: Regional winners then progress to compete at the global finale. At the regional and global stages of the Research Challenge, teams are evaluated solely on their presentations.
Palmer, the UB graduate student who led the team, said the competition has been invaluable.
"I've gained great experience interviewing management, working with an investment expert from a premier equity research firm, performing the type of analysis and valuations expected from analysts at top tier firms, and defending my recommendation and valuation to a panel of investment professions," he said. "As a student, it's the closest you're going to get to the actual thing."
The Chantilly, Va. native estimated that he and his fellow team members logged 300 hours preparing for the competition.
"It's been pretty amazing," Palmer said.