Quinlan team performs well in CFA competition
Quinlan’s CFA Institute Research Challenge team made school history after placing second at their regional competition, which is the highest a Quinlan team has ever placed.
The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual global competition that provides university students with hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis.
The Quinlan team, composed of undergraduate and graduate finance students, placed ahead of teams from DePaul, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and other area schools.
Members included Master of Science in Finance students Bryan Madding and Trung Nguyen, and undergraduate finance students Robert Englert and Ricky Osty. Associate dean and finance professor Steven Todd led the team.
Preparing for competition
“The competition is a very intensive case study,” said Professor Steven Todd. “And the students spend a huge amount of time researching the equity report they eventually write. I would estimate the winning team puts in more than a thousand man-hours. It’s really demanding.”
This year, the equity report was based on Mead Johnson, a company that produces goods for infants, children, and expectant mothers. Company executives initially presented for all competing teams, but the Quinlan team eventually worked with Charles Fishman of Morningstar, their assigned industry advisor.
“They’re looking at materials from the company, which include all their financial statements,” Todd said about the equity report. “They’re using databases that Quinlan subscribes to, including Compustat, which contains historical data on financial statements. And they’re doing their own analysis by writing Excel spreadsheet code.”
Based on their analysis of the company and related market, the students make a recommendation on the stock, like “buy,” “sell,” or “hold.”
“We really did the bulk of the work during Christmas break,” team member Ricky Osty said. “The report was due in early January, and once it was submitted, it went through a week-long grading process. I believe the top five reports were chosen, and then we went on to a presentation round in mid February.”
After the written reports were graded, the team was in third place. After the presentation round, they moved up to second place—the highest ranking for a Quinlan team.
Real-world experience and expectations
“This gave us great exposure to the field,” Robert Englert said. “We presented at Morningstar’s office and met a lot of very high-level people, which was a great experience. It was a good primer of what I could expect if I enter the industry.”
But, he said, the experience also meant working long hours throughout the winter.
And while it wasn’t an easy task, Trung Nguyen said the competition was “eye-opening” to what the industry actually expects of students. He and his teammates read through dozens of professional equity reports—each 30 or 40 pages long—to emulate their thoroughness and thoughtfulness.
“We wanted to see where the bar was,” Nguyen said. “And it raised our expectations of what we should produce for our own report.”
Future work with the CFA Institute
Professor Abol Jalilvand, Chair of the Finance Department and former Quinlan dean, said a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is the most important designation in finance, equivalent to a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation in accounting.
“We felt it would be great if we prepared the students both at our Master of Science in Finance and undergraduate finance majors programs to get their CFA designation,” Jalilvand said. “Although some local Chicago business schools are covering CFA-based material, we’re the only one that’s pursuing a formal certification by the CFA Institute.”
In addition to aligning our content and coverage with the learning objectives of the CFA designation, Quinlan will create additional modules and experiential opportunities for students, to enhance their chances of passing the CFA exams. Professors will also ensure to align their teaching as much as possible to the requirements of the CFA.
“Essentially, we’re enhancing our value proposal,” Jalilvand said. “When you’re coming to Quinlan to earn a Master of Science or a an undergraduate major in Finance, you are also being prepared to sit down for a CFA designation exam.”