What motivated you to participate in the Research Challenge?
I always wanted to move into finance and understand equity research and how the buy side might work. I thought of this as an opportunity to do that.
What was your strategy going into the competition?
Months before we even knew the company, we were reading about equity research and capital markets—newsletters, daily news about what was moving the markets, technical pieces on how to value a company, how to use different methodologies. It was mostly getting our feet wet about everything around valuation and capital markets.
After we were given the company, we did a lot of research on them and the industry: what was driving the industry, what was changing. Then with company management we focused on numbers, numbers, numbers. We spent two months drilling into it and reading, and then we built out the model. We spent the last month and a half building out the report. Then finally we focused on the presentation: how do we tell the story effectively?
We picked up the pace after our local competition and focused a lot more on preparing our presentation. At first, we were mostly practicing internally in front of other students. After, we presented to people with backgrounds in communications and public relations to get feedback on our presentation skills.
What obstacles did you face along the way?
We weren’t familiar with company valuation and public equity markets, so we had to dive deep into that. We didn’t have the knowledge to understand what drives a company’s revenues and cost structure. We didn’t know industry trends and dynamics. We had to learn that on the fly and then use that information to do a good analysis.
What did you do next after the competition?
Before the Research Challenge, I was in risk management. After the competition, I switched jobs and now work in private equity. Thanks to my participation, I received a scholarship for the CFA Program and enrolled. I also spoke with charterholders during the competition and they shared how important it was for their careers, so it seemed like the natural next step. I completed the program and became a charterholder.
Being a charterholder opened many doors because people recognized the credential and were willing to take meetings with me. They know I’m a CFA® charterholder, so I’m someone they want to talk to. The knowledge that I gained through the Program was significant. I get contacted a lot by headhunters, so there’s good exposure.
Since becoming a charterholder, I’ve been growing my career in private equity. I started as an analyst and then became an associate. After becoming a CFA charterholder I moved into a VP role. Now I’m looking to go into partnership by next year.
What advice do you have for other participants?
Be ready to put in the work, but it is a very rewarding experience. I’ve built relationships that will last a lifetime. The competition changed my life; it changed my career path and opened doors. Take this competition seriously and you will learn a lot. And remember to enjoy the experience—it’s about relationships, teamwork, and enjoying the journey.