Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX Schwartz School students win CFA Atlantic Investment Research Competition 

February 17th, 2021
StFX Schwartz School students, l-r, Nathan Hayes, Liam Rowland and Jay McKenna pictured on Zoom during the CFA Atlantic Investment Research Competition. The team, coached by faculty advisor Dr. Vijay Vishwakarma, won the event.

A team of students from StFX’s Gerald Schwartz School of Business recorded an impressive victory at the CFA Atlantic Investment Research Competition, a well-regarded and highly competitive event that is part of an annual global competition providing university students with hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis and professional ethics.

StFX students Nathan Hayes (team captain), Liam Rowland and Jay McKenna, who are coached by faculty advisor Dr. Vijay Vishwakarma, represented the Schwartz School at the competition, which took place virtually on Feb. 13, 2021 and included six teams from Atlantic Canada, including Acadia, Saint Mary’s, Dalhousie, Mount Allison, Université de Moncton and StFX. 

StFX now moves on to the sub-regional finals, which features the winners from the different Canadian regions, on April 12-16. Winners then move on to regional competitions in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, culminating in a global final. In 2020, over 6,400 students and 1,100 universities competed overall.

“We were ecstatic to find out we won,” says Mr. Hayes of Port Hawkesbury, NS, a fifth year BBA student taking an advanced major in finance and BA major in economics, minor in business administration, on the competition where students are tested on their analytical, valuation, report writing, and presentation skills, gaining real-world experience as they assume the role of a research analyst. 

Mr. Hayes says the event was highly competitive as opposing teams included both undergraduate and graduate (MBA) degree students. There were two panels, each comprised of three judges, for a total of six judges. The judges were Julie Ducharme, Institutional Portfolio Manager, PH&N; Michel Malo, Chief Investment Officer, Provident10; Tim Bradshaw, Vice President, Scheer, Rowlett & Associates; Gary Chateram, Senior Vice President, MacKenzie Investments; Rob Ritchie, CEO, HRM Pension Plan; Nadia Savva, Director Insurance Platforms and Subadvisory, MFS Investment Management. 

Mr. Rowland, a fourth-year advanced major finance student from London, ON, says his reaction to the win was initially shock, as the event is extremely competitive, and it seemed like any team could win. “We remained confident throughout the process as we knew we had put it in the necessary work to give ourselves a chance.” 

“It was very exciting and somewhat surprising. We knew we were up against a strong talent pool with MBA students, so it was a great feeling,” says Mr. McKenna of Calgary AB, a fourth year advanced major in finance student who is also taking a minor in economics. 

Mr. McKenna says the StFX team was very fortunate to present alongside one another. “Most teams presented as individuals in their homes. Being in a bubble with one another, we were able to book a classroom and present together. This made it much more of a real presentation.” 

From a faculty perspective, Dr. Vishwakarma says it is rewarding when you see your team win. Especially as the competition was the toughest he has seen so far in many years of coaching for the event. 

“The challenge is preparing a team where some of the concepts asked are very advanced, and not even covered in undergraduate courses. This competition asks students to study a particular company and recommend buying, holding, or selling something that a professional does on Bay Street. Because of the pandemic, there is so much uncertainty in the market, and it is challenging to do forecasting for professionals in such circumstances then. You can think how difficult it was for an undergraduate student. Our team worked hard until the very end and made it.”

VALUABLE TO TAKE PART

“Taking part in this competition has provided myself and my teammates an exciting hands-on experience in conducting stock analysis that we believe will be very beneficial both professionally and personally. Gaining an understanding of even the simple processes behind an equity research report, such as formatting and overall visual appeal, is extremely valuable to comprehend,” Mr. Rowland says.

“It definitely helps prepare students for their careers,” Mr. McKenna says. “This is tangible work that is similar to what students can expect to be doing in capital market roles, particularly equity research.” 

Mr. Hayes says competitions like these are essential for StFX students. Taking advantage of these competitions and extra-curricular activity really allows for students to gain essential experience as they move forward into the job market.

He says a highlight of the event was being able to compete amongst other schools in the region and create connections, within their own community and also with competing schools, the judges, industry mentors and all involved.

Mr. Rowland says something that stood out to him was the amount of depth that goes into these types of reports. “Having not done one before, it was quite intimidating to start. In addition, the high level of competition was something I noticed. The judges noted that this year was extremely close in terms of overall scores. It seemed as though there was not one team that had fallen behind.”

He says preparation for the competition involved constant communication between teammates. “Communication was done both over the phone, and luckily, in person. Our team would typically meet weekly, tackling a different part of the report and/or presentation. A big challenge was the time period of Christmas break, where we were all in separate parts of the country doing our best to stay on track.” 

Mr. Hayes says it was tough to coordinate on different time zones during the break and obviously wanting to be home to relax and enjoy the holidays. “But thanks to great work all around we overcame those challenges and really put together a solid report and slide deck for our presentation.”

He says he would like to add a thank you to all the Schwartz faculty who contributed and provided guidance throughout their time as undergraduate students. “Specifically, I would like to add a thank you to Vijay, our faculty advisor, for his knowledge and guidance not just throughout this competition but undergrad as a whole. Also, thank you to Stephen Machielsen of BMO Capital Markets, who served as our industry advisor, and lastly to all those involved in organizing the competition, including the judges and Kyle Weeden from the CFA Atlantic Society.” 

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