Every year the CFA Institute hosts a research challenge aimed at university students in the finance sector. It is considered the ‘investment Olympics’ of university students, expecting them to do hands-on financial analysis and compete with teams from around the world.
2014 saw the UCT team from South Africa reach fifth place in the Europe-Middle East-and-Africa (EMEA) regional finals. The team consisted of Benjamin Shaw, Monique Baars, Sam Barton-Bridges, Alisair Murie and Lauren Reeves.
In order to qualify for the regional finals being held in Milan, Italy, during April this year, the UCT team first had to compete against other South African universities during September/October last year. Each university’s team had to compile an investment report for the same company.
“We compiled a research report on the MTN group to provide a recommendation on the company – to buy, hold or sell. We spent almost two months researching, writing and modelling and then compiled a 10-page report, which was judged by the CFA Institute,” explains Benjamin Shaw. The top four reports from around the country were then presented by the respective teams at an event held in Johannesburg a few weeks later. The UCT team walked away with the honour of representing South Africa in the EMEA regional finals.
After attaining fifth place in the EMEA region, the South Africans were free to enjoy the sights of Milan and greater Italy for a week before heading back home. The global winner was selected a few weeks later at an event held in Singapore. The University of the Philippines Diliman won the title of champion of the eighth CFA Institute Research Challenge.
Reflecting on the most challenging and enriching aspects of this experience, Benjamin confesses that “the most challenging was balancing final test and exam pressure with putting in the hours required to deliver the report and prepare for the presentation. Being unused to the parallel demands was hard.” He also accedes that “the competition was an excellent barometer of finance and accounting skills picked up over four years at UCT … the technical skills I picked up were a significant help in starting at my job at the beginning of the year.”
It is perhaps with this practical expression of skills in mind that Benjamin highly recommends the CFA Institute Research Challenge to any finance student still in university.
Written by Alexa Anthonie.