Students Ying Wong, Bryon Collins, Justin Graham, Thanh Ngan Mai and Cameron Steuart only recently met face-to-face for the first time. But it was hardly their first introduction: behind their respective computer screens, they had grown familiar with each other through a series of tasks they worked on as a team for the CFA Institute Research Challenge.
2022 is the very first year that students from Flinders University have taken part in the challenge, and Faculty Advisor Dr Jak Kakhkharov was the one who brought the team together. "I know all of them, from teaching [various] topics. I knew Justin, Thanh and Ying from my Foundations of Finance topic," says Dr Kakhkharov. "As an assessment in that topic, we had presentations - for the first time in history of that topic - and [those students] did really well in those presentations, and they had a very good work ethic."
The annual, global competition provides an opportunity for university students to experience practical mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis and professional ethics. It tests students on areas including report writing, valuation and analytical skills, making for a rich, realistic experience for those interested in a potential career as a research analyst.
Forming a team
Student Justin Graham, who has returned to university to study Accounting and Finance after years of working in an entirely different industry, points out that while he isn't a digital native, the rest of his team members were - making for a somewhat seamless online experience.
"I think it's the modern reality... this is the way things are done in 2022," says Graham. "Obviously, there are huge advantages to that. Not having to be in the same location means you can be working with anyone."
"We could be a lot more flexible with our meetings - we could do them after hours, things like that," adds student Bryon Collins.
Making the most every connection
The Flinders team was mentored by Xia Wu, Global Equities Analyst at Bell Asset Management - a well-known portfolio management company.
“[Our industry mentor] taught me lots of things that I wouldn't have even considered before."
Being mentored by someone with extensive industry experience was one of the highlights of participating in the competition. "The best part for me was probably talking to the industry mentor," says student Cameron Steuart. "She taught me lots of things that I wouldn't have even considered before. So I learned a lot that I wouldn't have learned [otherwise]."
It was also an opportunity for the students to learn more from the talented educators at Flinders, like Dr Kakhkharov. "My part [in the challenge] was as a Risk Advisor," says student Ying Wong. "I had to ask a lot of questions about how to do some parts. And Jak was really nice to help."
Embracing new opportunities
While the Flinders team didn't take home the grand prize, they performed incredibly well considering it was an inaugural appearance. "It was my first time looking this deep into one company," student Thanh Ngan Mai says. "Like balance sheets, and looking at everything in detail."
The challenge also taught the students how to manage tight deadlines, improve upon their presentation skills, and work effectively towards a goal with fellow team members.
"It's a competition between universities... it's a nerve-wracking and stressful experience," says Dr Kakhkharov. "But it's also a very steep learning curve, which is definitely an advantage [for the future]."
"I think it's always good to say: if you have an opportunity, take the opportunity. Because it leads to more opportunities," says Graham.
"This is just a good example of one of those opportunities that came up... to people who are coming into university, I'd say just grab every opportunity you can. Take it."