First Time Competitors for the CFA Institute Research Challenge

Nerves, jitters and excitement appear on the students as they enter the Marshall School of Business at USC, anticipating a victory at the CFA Institute Research Challenge. Mathew Danko, Carlos Herrera, Andrew Klein, Mindy Larios and Yi Zhang, represent Cal State LA’s College of Business and Economics on Friday February 16th 2024. Joining forces together, the team set out to present the best equity research possible for the business provided to them. 

CFA Institute Research Challenge

Being this is Cal State LA first time entering the competition, the weight of this prestige competition lingers on the students. The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual global competition that provides university students with hands on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis and professional ethics. It also provides educational initiative, by promoting the best practices in equity research among the next generation of analysts through hands-on mentoring and intensive training in company analysis and presentation skills.  

Mathew Danko reached out to fellow classmate Carlos Herrera, later accompanied by Mindy Larios who all collectively had an interest in joining the CFA Institute. With fellow student Andrew and the help of professor Mine Ucok Hughes, Yi Zhang was introduced. With the guidance of Finance professor Charles Danso, the team set out to compete in the competition. 

The students receive their business, Air Lease Corporation in Fall 2023 with intent on expanding and discovering new business intertie and equity. During their initial meeting students met on Zoom, sharing their strengths and weakness to maximize their efforts in unequivocal areas during the course of their presentation. Carlos Herrera stating “his interest in the investment thesis and valuation experience from previous internships, felt confident in taking on those sections”. When faced with obstacles in some sections that required more emphasis such as Excel analysis or discussing which methods and numbers to project key metrics to reveal the company value; the students leaned on one another discussing their thinking process over Zoom. 

Leading up to the competition, students began a steady repetition and rhythm practicing their presentation to ensure the information would be given in a respective time. Mindy Larios states, “we gained more and more confidence through each practice”.  

Arriving at the CFA Institute Research Challenge, the students were excited to compete, with their biggest competition being Cal State Fullerton. For the last 10 years, Cal State Fullerton has swept the competition, with Cal State LA, seeking their own opportunity to advance to the next round. Preparing for their presentation, fellow team members congregated, ran over the notes and put their best foot forward in order to make the next round.  

The month of preparation, two weeks of rehearsing led the students to this point, presenting on the stage, at the Marshall School of Business, where students are given 20 minutes with a slide consistency of 15 (10 to present and 10-minute Q & A). During the presentation, only faculty and one judges are allowed to spectate. In a room of 30 people, with mixed professionals within the finance industry and 10 CFA judges, the students understand the value of speaking swiftly nailing down points in order to capitative the audience while evoking the imagery. A style consisting of easy to read, self-made visual charts and a cohesive design use of colors, consisted of a business overview, industry analysis, investment thesis, valuation, financial analysis, investment risks and environmental-social-governance (ESG).  

The feedback first-time competition competitors received, were endless. Organization, the ability to maintain confidence during tough Q & A section, creativity by developing their own graphs and charts instead of relying on premade charts. With Mindy Larios, stating “this competition was an invaluable experience that taught me how to better research and analytical thinker, who can successfully collaborate in a team of diverse personalities. Who all have the same end goal and determination leads to completing opportunities like this one”?   

Completing their presentation on their analysis on Air Lease Corporation, was met with positive results with student’s placing 6th in the CFA Institute Research Challenge. The students walked away feeling more prepared than before to enter the competitive work force within finance which has boosted their confidence. 

The CFA Institute Competition was a great opportunity for students, they had the privileged of gaining knowledge and boosting their confidence, while expanding their mindset and knowledge on the financial institutions. Although, the students didn’t claim first place, the experience and knowledge receive will be beneficial as they move in a up the economics food chain.