The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge is an investment challenge that tests the valuation, report writing and presentation skills of university students around the world. This year, eight teams from six area schools in the Philadelphia area, including the team of MS Finance scholars from the Fox School, participated in the competition.
The Fox School team won the local Philadelphia contest and will proceed to the regional competition—then, they’ll have the opportunity to be at the global finals.
“What’s special here is that this is a prestigious and truly global competition,” says John Soss, associate professor and academic director of specialized master’s programs in finance. “Hundreds of schools around the world compete every year to be global champions. I don’t know of another competition like this that really draws the best business students worldwide to compete.”
Soss, who acts as a mentor and guide for students, credits both the students’ applauded talent and the University’s unique Master of Science in Financial Analysis (FA) curriculum for positioning Fox School teams for success in this exciting competition.
“Our Financial Analysis degree studies account for the CFA Body of Knowledge,” says Soss. “And the Fox School is a CFA Affiliated University. So our curriculum and student career opportunities are attractively industry matched and support pursing the CFA designation.”
Students working towards the chartered financial analyst credential aim to gain broad skills in investment management and the global financial markets. Participating in this equity research competition is an excellent way to strengthen and test those skills.
Prior to being part of the winning CFA research challenge team, Matthew Franks simultaneously passed the November CFA Level I exam during his first semester of graduate studies. Though the task was daunting, he leveraged the knowledge from his program’s CFA preparatory classes and created a dedicated study schedule.
“Instead of learning how to answer the exam questions, we learned how to apply that knowledge—you don’t just memorize,” says Franks. “The classes help you think more outside of the box. Then, if the exam throws you a curveball, you know how to apply your knowledge.”
The rest of the winning Fox team includes Financial Analysis stars Matthew Geist, BBA ’21, Julie Hauge and Nihar Patel. After their local win, they will excitedly compete against nine regional schools for the title of Eastern U.S. champion.
The team comes from diverse backgrounds, both geographically and professionally. Geist received his undergraduate degree in finance from the Fox School and Franks comes from the engineering world. Norway-born Sweden-raised Hauge began her career in the business of healthcare, and Patel worked as a financial advisor in his home country India.
For the local Philadelphia competition, the team was tasked with analyzing a regionally headquartered architectural and traditional ceiling company’s global business and making a recommendation to buy, sell or hold the firm’s common stock.
“Ultimately we gave it a ‘buy’ recommendation. Even with the current market turmoil, we thought the company was a good value. Beyond our formal written report, we were tasked to create a presentation of 20 or so slides to present our investment thesis to a panel of judges at the Union League of Philadelphia,” says Geist.
In their individual team roles, Geist researched the market and competitors within the industry, Franks worked on valuation, Hauge tackled financial analysis and reporting and Patel focused on the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors and investment risks for the target company.
The initial team that competed at the university level did not include Patel—so coming into the citywide tournament, he was extremely motivated. After the Temple University research competition, Professor Soss reached out to Patel to join Geist, Franks and Hauge to further strengthen the team.
“I was super passionate about the research challenge,” says Patel. “It was a big thing for me, I really wanted to be part of the team and really benefited from the work. I plan to take advantage of all of the connections I made at the CFA Society of Philadelphia.”
Hauge shared what winning this competition meant for her—a sentiment shared in various ways by all of the participants.
“It’s really exciting to get to take everything that we’re learning in the program and actually turn out something that’s tangible,” says Hauge. “We are applying everything that we’re doing in class into something that we know we could be doing at a company. And in terms of exposure, I’m meeting a lot of people and getting a lot of visibility, even from just promoting this on LinkedIn. It’s something that tangibly shows your abilities and that’s been a great thing to be able to do.”
The team was ecstatic to be recently notified that they have won again at the sub-regional level and are now also Eastern U.S. champions. Looking to reach the Americas finals, Temple will next go up against other regional winning teams from across North America, including Appalachian State University, the University of British Columbia, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Guadalajara, California Polytechnic State University and the University of Minnesota, Duluth.