History repeats itself: BI wins the local rounds of the CFA research challenge another year

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It was a team from BI that credited the school with another win in the local CFA Institute Research Challenge last Thursday, rising above their peers and qualifying to compete in the next level of the challenge.

The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual competition, in which teams of 3-5 members are assigned a company to analyse and produce a report with a buy, sell or hold recommendation and finally present these findings in front of a judge-board consisting of industry professionals. The challenge evolves into three stages, starting at the local level and then advancing onto regional and finally global.

This is Norway’s third year participating and second year hosting this event. It is organized by the CFA Society Norway, in collaboration with the participating universities and company. The CFA Society also seeks a number of volunteers every year to fill the positions of the industry mentors, faculty advisors universities and the judge board of industry professionals.

The Board of Industry Judges.
Photo: Viktoria Lima

BI has been championing victories for Norway every year it has partaken in the event, and that is no less true this year. The standards set for this year’s competitors are quite high, as their predecessors hadn’t just won the local level, but also the regionals which qualified them to compete in the global level the last two consecutive years.

However, this year’s local challenge was quite unique in relation to the tradition that has been built along these past few years. Conventionally, the competition would consist of at least 4 teams, one team representing each of the usually competing universities (CBS, NHH, Nord and BI). This year there were only three teams, two of them representing BI and the third representing Nord. Nonetheless, I believe due to BI’s track record of winning the local challenge, the turn of events just served to intensify the competition.

The three competing teams were branded by color: Red, Blue, and Green.

Team Red: Laura Sesek, Helen Upsaker, Guillaume Mamy.
Photo: Viktoria Lima
Team Blue: Natalie Petromanova, Gaute Alex, Minaj Rankov,
Liubomyr Romaniv.
Photo: Viktoria Lima
Team Green: Samer Altinawi, Ekin Baris Sah, Signe Kilskar.
Photo: Viktoria Lima

We at Inside had the much-appreciated opportunity of attending the finals and getting a first-hand account of these three team’s presentations. I say “much appreciated” because all three of these teams laboured over 2 months to produce their work. We were also told that in average the BI team members each worked between 200-250 hrs throughout this period.

This, however, is quite understandable given that the company they were assigned this year was Borregaard. Borregaard is an ancient Norwegian company, established in 1889. It traditionally produced pulp and paper, but throughout the years it has evolved into a biorefinery that produces products based on the different components in wood. Their product portfolio is very diverse, with products ranging from yeast to bio-ethanol. This created a lot of uncertainties for the teams when deciding things such as which macroeconomic factors to take into account and which valuations methods to apply. Simply, it is not an easy company to comprehend like Mikkel Nyholt – volunteer judge from Carnegie, quipped “I have been covering Borregaard now for six years and I have to say, six years in and I still can’t really put a finger on what their product is used for and how it enhances the product that it is put in”.

But, of course, the teams had access to several forms of aid when faced with such hurdles. Notably the faculty advisers and the industry mentors. Whom they could consult, concerning their approaches, structuring, valuation and methods, for example . The teams were also allowed to two Q&A sessions with Borregaard via Skype. Further, the Blue team also expressed their appreciation for having access to the Bloomberg room at BI, saying “it was very helpful”.

I encourage anyone with an interest in finance and the inner-workings of companies to apply for this challenge next year, because there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

The research challenge is a very demanding task to say the least, but at the end of the day, all three teams came through, producing their report and presented their recommendation to the judge-board. Alas, there could only be one winner, and it was team Blue that impressed the judges with their ‘buy’ recommendation, which was thoroughly backed-up and beautifully presented.

Once I had the chance to talk with the teams after the announcement, it became evident that all of them were winners. The is because every single one of them expressed the true value of the competition, which was the experience of working with a real company and getting that practical knowledge. So, I encourage anyone with an interest in finance and the inner-workings of companies to apply for this challenge next year, because there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

My closing remarks will be referred to the CFA article published by Inside last year. In this article my fellow journalist Eileen Liu raised the issue of gender diversity among the participants. In the last year’s competition, there was only one female participant and 16 males. I’m happy to announce that this year that there were 5 female participants and 6 males. This brings this year’s competition to a very wholesome end.

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