Article

Digital adaption secured top five position out of 1150 teams

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down societies around the globe, BI’s participating team in the prestigious equity research competition, CFA Institute Research Challenge, successfully adapted to a virtual competition format to finish as one of the top five teams globally.

After winning the national final in Oslo in February, the team was supposed to face other participants in person, first in Jordan for the regional EMEA final and then in New York for the global top five competition. Instead, the students had to improvise on how to make their presentation separately and shift from a live stage to a digital stage.

“The thing that has been the most challenging was to time-manage and prioritize. We could no longer be in the same room or be at school, where we normally had group discussions and divided tasks. Now people were scattered across Norway, which made the "simpler discussions" harder, and we had to prioritize our tasks and manpower more,” says Hannah Breistein, one out five team members.

They all agree that this was another hurdle to overcome, in addition to polish their arguments and performance from the previous rounds of the competition, where they had already spent more than 300 hours of preparations.

The Research Challenge is one of the world’s largest of its kind with 1150 universites participating in 2020, equal to about 6000 students.

Teams of three to five students assume the role of practicing equity analysts by writing up a research report with a recommendation of a company selected by the local CFA Society, to be presented in front of a panel of judges consisting of practicing investment professionals. All teams are given an industry mentor and a faculty advisor to consult the team.

The Research Challenge is one of the world’s largest of its kind with 1150 universites participating in 2020, equal to about 6000 students. Teams of three to five students assume the role of practicing equity analysts by writing up a research report with a recommendation of a company selected by the local CFA Society, to be presented in front of a panel of judges consisting of practicing investment professionals. All teams are given an industry mentor and a faculty advisor to consult the team.

“When we qualified for the EMEA Regional Finals, I feel that the effort we put in started growing by the day. The takeaway there has been to always look for improvements and work on them. We set up a strong feedback loop with our mentor and faculty advisor to support these improvements. Looking back, the constant improvements and feedback were instrumental in taking us through to the global finals, “says Gautam Himal.

This year’s research case was Oslo listed fish farmer Bakkafrost, which operates in a market segment and industry many of the students were unfamiliar with.

BI’s team cheered both judges and company representatives with solid arguments for a big upside potential in Bakkafrost’s current shareprice due new megatrends, acquisition synergies and product qualities compared to its peers.

This year’s research case was Oslo listed fish farmer Bakkafrost, which operates in a market segment and industry many of the students were unfamiliar with. BI’s team cheered both judges and company representatives with solid arguments for a big upside potential in Bakkafrost’s current shareprice due new megatrends, acquisition synergies and product qualities compared to its peers.

“We had no clue about how many details and information we needed to be comfortable with in order to be able to stand on our feet during Q&A sessions with industry experts, during the Norwegian local final, and investment banking professionals in the upcoming rounds. It took time, and it was not always easy, but learning so much about a completely new topic is always interesting, and we managed to become very informed about it after all, says Francesco Romagnoli.

First class in Norway

First launched as three-hour pilot program, BI’s CFA Affiliated class is the first of its kind in Norway as a six credit program with 30 students participating this semester. Students are offered hands-on applied corporate finance training by connecting industry experts to develop knowledge, skills and abilities needed for a professional investment role. One of highlights is the research challenge where their skills are tested against other students.

“CFA RC is a competition, but also a call for interested individuals to take on a challenge to expand their finance knowledge and grow professionally to test how far they can go,” says Professor Janis Berzins, responsible for the course and faculty advisor to the team.

He says he appreciate the intensive personalized mentoring process with individuals maturing professionally at a highly accelerated rate.

“It’s a wonderful professional challenge for me to come up with new ways to push our students to perfection. Fact that truly global interaction between students, industry and academia works very well under current circumstances, he adds.”

For the third time in the last four years, a team from BI has made it to the global final, supported by Berzins and industry mentor Shirley Xiuyi Dong from investment banking firm Cleaves Securities.

Dong says one of the reasons for spending her spare time on helping students is that it’s inspiring and rewarding to see the efforts students put into this, and how quickly they improve on many dimensions, not just academically, but also on personal level.

“The knowledge and insights as well as network the students can gain from participating is hardly achievable elsewhere. So it is highly recommended to any students who wish to pursue a career in the financial industry,” Dong says.

Make their mark

Being able to test and apply their theoretical framework from the master program on real world question has made the students more certain that they have chosen the right career path, as they all want to make their mark in the finance industry after graduating.

“I am hoping to remain in Norway and find a job in equity research. The competition has made me realize that this is my passion,” says Mazen Younes.

Tiziana Fadda, which already has a foot inside the industry with her part time job in liquidity and risk management department in Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, hope to secure a full time position there after finishing her master.

“This course was amazing since, compared to other courses, we actually performed a task that is similar to a real job experience instead of just studying theory or coding in matlab." 

Tiziana Fadda

The University of Sydney, in Australia, secured the title of Global Champion for the 14th Annual CFA Institute Research Challenge ahead of the four regionals champions from Seton Hall University and Universidade de Sao Paulo from the America region, and BI Norwegian Business School and Univsersity of Lausanne, representing Europe, Middle East and Africa Region (EMEA).

About the competition:

  • The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual competition that invites university students, competing in teams of three to five, to conduct an in-depth analysis of an assigned listed company.
  • Hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis and professional ethics are delivered through the network of CFA Institute member societies.
  • Students are tested on their analytical, valuation, research, reporting, and presentation skills, and gain real-world experience as they assume the role of research analysts.
  • In total, more than 6,000 students from 1,150 universities around the world participated in the competition this year.