CFA Research Challenge 2015-16: A monumental task, and a valuable learning experience.

The CFA Institute Research Challenge is a global competition, held across the world on a grand scale. This challenge tests the analytic, valuation, report writing, and presentation skills of management students.

Last year nearly 2500 students from over 546 institutes in 45 countries participated and learnt best practices in equity research from leading industry experts. Local CFA societies host and launch local competitions involving teams of three to five business and finance students from participating institutes who work directly with a local company in researching and preparing company analysis. FLAME students won the 1st position in the western region in 2012, beating many reputed and renowned Business Schools. The students continue to participate and bring glory to FLAME University, while they enrich their experience by many folds every year.

The talented team that represented FLAME University for CFA Institute Research Challenge 2015-16 consisted of 5 members, Mohammed Mandasaurwala, Team Leader along with 4 Team Members – Vikas Gupta, Nishant Gadia, Kunal Kanungo and Yash Tilakraj, under the tutelage of a very senior and experienced faculty, Prof. Sujay Joshi.

For this challenge, the team had to conduct an in-depth evaluative study on Whirlpool India Ltd. It’s obviously no small task, as one can imagine. Just the amount of literature available on the company would be overwhelming. Primary research, valuation, studying the balance sheet, financial history, position in the industry, gauging the competition etc., were a few tasks that were undertaken. The research also involved quantitative evaluation as well as qualitative evaluation, encompassing topline growth and bottom-line growth, analyzing management capabilities, business model and its long term sustainability in light of increased competition. The students were asked to present a price target for the company over the next one year, taking into account various parameters from the data available in the public domain.

Besides Whirlpool the team also analyzed its competitors, their financials and their competitive strengths to gain more knowledge about the industry. Different companies use different strategies to gain presence in the market. The team gained insights through dealer surveys, analyzing market reports and by observing how the companies are reacting towards current market scenarios.

The work can be insurmountable, but the learning and experience one derives from this is invaluable too. This detailed study provided experiential learning about the various concepts and dynamics of equity valuation. Not only did this exposure give the students immense benefits, but also the interactions with mentors helped them form a strong base to understand how to look at companies from different angles and study the reports in-depth.

Besides that, the team got a real life experience working in a very active market scenario. They also learnt the importance of working as a team, lending support and utilizing each other’s strengths to enhance the results. For example, while one team member may be extremely good at research, other can be better at analyzing the data. Some people are shy and nervous during presentations, while others are extremely confident. Understanding other’s strengths, while overcoming your own weaknesses, and using it to the best of the team’s advantage in itself is a great learning experience. This makes the student very ‘job ready’ in today’s competitive scenario.

This whole experience was extremely crucial for it gave an opportunity to implement theoretical knowledge in practical scenarios. The competition also enhanced the analytical, decision making, interpersonal, and presentation skills of its participants.

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